NEW PORT RICHEY — Providing a safe and fun environment for children is the main reason that some area churches are having alternatives to the usual scary Halloween festivities.
The First United Methodist Church of New Port Richey will have its Fall Family Festival from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at the church at 5901 Indiana Ave.
Free events will include pumpkin carving, games, candy, a hay ride, jump castle and storytelling. Hot dogs, bratwurst, popcorn, lemonade and ice cream cookies will be for sale. Pumpkins and decorative gourds will be for sale at the Pumpkin Patch. Parents are encouraged to bring cameras for photos of their children in the Pumpkin Patch.
Also today a Fall Fest is scheduled from 3 to 5 p.m. at the First Baptist Church of Holiday, 4807 Mile Stretch Road. There will be games, prizes, candy, food and a moonwalk.
"We do not observe Halloween, but we want to reach the kids to lead them to Christ," said Ruth Ponder, the church's children's director. "So we are providing this alternative for a safe and fun place to be."
There will also be a play titled The Secret of the Empty Tomb for the children to learn about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
"I am asking the people to smile and say 'God loves you' as they hand out candy to the children," said Ponder.
A costume contest is set for 4 p.m. Awards will be given for the best Biblical costume.
Last year was the first time the members of Trinity Presbyterian Church of Seven Springs offered a Trunk or Treat Halloween Festival. It was successful, so they are doing it again from 3 to 5 p.m. Oct. 26 at the church at 4651 Little Road in New Port Richey. The members will decorate their car trunks and pass out candy to the children of the community.
"This provides a safe place for the children and the older people enjoy doing it," said Kelly Erickson. "Last year we had trucks decorated in a Hogwarts, Harry Potter theme, a pirates theme and a harvest theme — nothing scary."
The church's youth group will pass out candy and have games and snacks for the children.
Children can wear costumes; however the church requests nothing violent or scary.
At St. Mark's Presbyterian Church in Hudson, the membership is offering its third annual communitywide Halloween Celebration and Safety Fair from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 25.
"The purpose of this fair is to provide a safe and fun place for kids to celebrate Halloween and to increase health and safety awareness," said Nancy Colson, St. Mark's parish nurse.
There will be free carnival games, food, drinks and ice cream.
Clowns, balloons, face painting, a bounce house, music and prizes will also be a part of the day's offerings.
The Pasco County Sheriff's Office will do fingerprinting and McGruff the Crime Dog will be there. Information booths sponsored by various local businesses and health care providers will have trick or treating. There will also be a costume contest.