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Drive-Up Costume Contest Offers a New Twist on Centre Region Halloween Celebration

Centre Region Parks and Recreation is offering local families a fun way to safely celebrate Halloween this year. 

While the agency’s typical annual Halloween costume contest and parade, which can sometimes draw as many as 1,000 attendees, is canceled due to pandemic restrictions, director Pamela Salokangas and her team have pivoted to offer locals a Halloween costume contest with a twist. The Drive-Up Halloween Costume Contest takes place on Wednesday, Oct. 28 at the Nittany Mall.

“Once [attendees] arrive onsite at the Nittany Mall, they’ll be directed to some parking areas… They’ll be led by a vehicle into the much larger ‘pen,’ as we call it,” Salokangas explained. “They’ll come around in a circle and once everyone is parked physically distanced from each other, everyone competing in the contest will be able to get out of their vehicle and make their last-minute adjustments to their costume… Then they’ll gather at the side of their vehicle and our judges will come to each vehicle and do the judging.” 

While the costume contest format has changed to allow for social distancing, participants will still be judged across four categories: Cutest, Funniest, Best Couple or Group and Most Creative or Original. Cash prizes provided by the State College Lions Foundation are awarded in each category, with winners in each judging group.

“When everyone is judged, we’ll deliver prizes to those costume winners and then everyone will be directed to leave the pen, once back in their vehicles,” Salokangas added. 

From there, participants can pick up some candy treats, also provided by the State College Lions Foundation. 

Registration is required for the event. Participants can register to line up at the mall at 6 p.m., 6:45 p.m., 7:15 p.m., 7:45 p.m. or 8:15 p.m. The event will be limited to approximately 300 vehicles total for the evening. 

“The limit is so that we can manage the vehicles safely,” Salokangas said. “We also know there will be, on average, two to five people in each car. We’re being cognizant of the number of people we’re bringing onsite.”

COVID-19 safety measures will be in effect for both CRPR staff and attendees.

“Even if you’re not participating, if you’re going to help your family and get out of the car, you need to be masked,” Salokangas said. “If your costume has a mask, you do not need an additional mask. If your costume does not have a mask, you’ll want to wear a mask, even if you’re doing face makeup. Think about that as you’re coming up with your costume idea… Any staff you encounter during the event will be masked. If we’re handing things to you, we’ll be gloved as well, [and] we’ll keep the proper physical distance.”

Beyond incorporating a mask into their costumes, contest hopefuls also will want to consider the portability of their costumes, and how easily they can add finishing touches to their garb once parked. 

“If you’re building a costume in pieces or using a lot of cardboard, [think about] how you can transport that in your vehicle and how quickly you can get it on and set. We won’t have a lot of time for people to get dressed, so you’ll want to come in your basic costume and then add pieces to it [once you’re at the event],” Salokangas said, adding that once everyone is parked, judging is expected to take 15 to 20 minutes.

Otherwise, she hinted that the more original the costume, the better your chance at winning a prize. 

“When people take things you’re accustomed to seeing everyday in one way, and turn it over and recreate it in another way — those typically win the Most Creative or Original,” she said. 

Participants can register for the event on the CRPR website. While there, residents can also learn more about one of the agency’s most recent virtual events, the Virtual Virus Vamoose Fun Run/5K/10K Race, which allows participants to walk or run the race on their own schedule, through Nov. 30. 

Trick-or-treat night is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 29, in the the boroughs of Bellefonte and State College and the townships of Benner, College, Ferguson, Harris, Patton, Spring and Walker.