As night fell Saturday on Lenoir City, downtown came alive with ghouls, ghosts and all manners of spooky fun.
The city hosted the inaugural “Halloween Town” on Broadway Street. From Kingston to B streets and winding down to Depot Street, roadways normally filled with evening traffic were packed with trick-or-treaters of all age groups.
“It’s got to be the biggest event we’ve ever had downtown,” Jennifer Wampler, vice mayor and Lenoir City councilwoman, said.
Mild weather with a cool autumn breeze brought members of the community and visitors to participate in various activities, including a costume contest, a ball, bounce houses, pet parade and haunted house.
The event was supported by Loudon County Chamber of Commerce, Lenoir City Parks and Recreation Department, Historic Downtown Lenoir City Merchants Association, Lenoir City High School, Lenoir City Council and The Wampler Team.
Wampler said her son, Jeremiah Wampler, “mayor” of Halloween Town, came up with the idea in July and worked on setting up the event with cousin Josh Hartsook and other members of the community.
Jeremiah said the idea can be traced back to his own childhood memories of Halloween.
“When I was a young man, we used to leave for my grandmother’s house up here on 2nd Avenue, 8-10 years old, by ourselves,” Jeremiah said. “We’d comb the avenues trick-or-treating. It was magical with orange lighting of Lenoir City. (I) fell in love with the idea, but I know people aren’t comfortable doing that anymore so I wanted to bring that back downtown (and) involve local businesses.”
Jeremiah said he hopes the event will become an annual tradition.
“I was hoping that it would bring people out and into the community, and even helping get this going and help people that helped me do all this stuff, it really brought a lot of community back that had been missing for a few years it felt like just because of the pandemic and this, that and the other,” he said.
In the center of the street, booths from various businesses and organizations sold products and offered free candy.
Janna Dansby, with J. Dansby Designs, said she joined the makeshift holiday town as a small business. Dansby was out of candy before the night was over but already had plans for next year.
While the city does have parks and other downtown events, Saturday’s offering gave families the opportunity to get out, she said.
“This was absolutely wonderful,” Dansby said. “I think it was great for the community. … It was just good to see a family event for everybody.”
LCHS transformed the inside of Lenoir City School’s central office into a haunted house. Students and educators worked together to plan and execute a vision for the community.
The school system also held a trunk-or-treat in the parking lot. Various clubs, organizations and the schools participated.
Kaylee Goins, a senior at LCHS, was giving out candy as an officer of HOSA club. She said being able to participate and interact with families brings her joy.
“I just wanted to help the community and see all the awesome costumes everyone has,” Goins said.
Lauren Mason attended with daughters Reese, Zoey and Palmer Mason. The three girls entered the children’s portion of the costume contest and won the grand prize of $1,000 for their matching costumes of a police officer, defense attorney and inmate.
The idea for the costumes started with Reese, who said she had been wanting to dress as a police officer. Lauren came up with the rest of the costumes.
“We’re just really thankful we live in a community that has family friendly events like this,” Lauren said.
Zack Cusick, director of Lenoir City parks and recreation, and his family of Whitney, Knox, Cash and Gray won the $1,000 grand prize for the second half of the costume contest. Their matching “trophy family” costumes found them all painted in gold and posed to look like sports trophies.
Whitney said it took four or five days to paint the clothes and the body paint took an hour and a half. She said the boys were excited about the idea because they all play sports.
Jeremiah said he would take a break before getting ready for next year. He said he has plans already but wants to keep some ideas a mystery.