Halloween Hootenanny

Children of all ages take part in activities during the 2018 Newport Halloween Hootenanny at the Newport Little League Ballpark. The event will return to the ballpark on Howard Boulevard this year from 6-9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 31. (Newport Rotary Club photo)

On Thursday, Oct. 31 from 6-9 p.m., the Newport Little League Ballpark on Howard Boulevard will be filled with children of all ages in costumes.

The Newport Halloween Hootenanny is coming again. The annual event, hosted by the Newport Rotary Club, has been going since 1979, when Newport resident Bengi Flannigan started the Halloween fest to give local kids a safe place to celebrate.

Now, 40 years later, the Rotary Club keeps the event going, and to Rotary Hootenanny coordinator Pamela Wall, it seems to keep on growing.

“There are a lot more people involved,” Ms. Wall said. “Things change as more people get involved, that keeps things exciting.”

The Hootenanny is a free community event, and according to Ms. Wall, features about 30 different Halloween activities, including a hay ride, bounce houses and costume contests.

“We have a committee that’s going to change up the look of our games,” Ms. Wall said. “The petting zoo is coming back this year, and we’re changing up the route of the hay ride.”

Free hot dogs, popcorn, cotton candy and drinks are provided, as well as candy for those trick-or-treating. Ms. Wall said for children who can’t have candy, other goodies will be given out, too.

She said last year attendance at the Hootenanny was up; about 4,000 people came out, roughly 1,000 more than in 2017.

“Thankfully the community pulled together,” she said, “we had more volunteers than ever before, about 80.”

Ms. Wall said the effects of Hurricane Florence, which came through Carteret County in early September 2018, had an influence on how many people came to the Hootenanny.

“It was all about that feeling of ‘let’s pitch in and help each other,’” she said. “The kids needed something normal, to say, ‘our house may have been wrecked, but I’m still going trick-or-treating.’”

Local businesses and sponsors help pay for the Hootenanny’s expenses, and part of the donations also go to help the Rotary Club’s community assistance projects.

“Last year the project was building a playroom for the Newport Autism Center and supplying it,” Ms. Wall said. “This year, it’s the Croatan Ridge Rehabilitation Center.”

Hootenanny organizers are still looking for volunteers for the big night. Anyone who wants to help out may email Michelle Garcia at Michellegarcia@allstate.com or call 252-626-3035.

Ms. Wall said they have a wide variety of volunteer jobs for people of all ages.

“We’ve got jobs for people who need to sit down,” she said. “We also have jobs for students we can pair with adults.”

Ms. Wall said the Hootenanny has been going on since her husband, a Newport native, was trick-or-treating.

“It’s a big part of Newport,” she said. “It’s a part of growing up in and around Newport. I don’t even need to call the police and fire departments, everyone knows the two or three days leading up to the Hootenanny, people are doing things involved with the Hootenanny. Community events are becoming more scarce, but people continue to support this.”

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