RIVERVIEW—Pushing her way through crowds of costume-clad kids hyped up on sugary candy wasn't Theresa Turner's definition of fun.
But she had promised her nephews, age 4 and 7, she would take them to the event at Riverview High School called Trick or Treat Street. And she didn't want to disappoint them.
"It was 2005. I'd moved to Riverview the year before and didn't know much about Trick or Treat Street," Turner said. "Honestly, I was kind of dreading it. I'm not a crowd person and wasn't looking forward to trying to keep up with these two little boys who were bouncing around in my back seat."
Her fears proved unfounded.
"It was so well-organized," she said. "The lines moved quickly, there were lots of activities and my nephews had a blast."
Best of all, Turner said, the boys were able to go trick or treating and collect their fill of Halloween candy in a safe environment overseen by responsible business people and Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies.
"I didn't have to worry if the candy was safe or if kids would be exposed to something inappropriate," she said. "And since Trick or Treat Street is always on a Saturday, I didn't have to rush home from work to run around the neighborhood taking the kids from house to house before it got too dark outside. There are no strange doors. You're surrounded by people who are looking out for creepers and watching for lost children."
Turner was sold on the event she originally dreaded attending. In the years since, she accompanied her own children and her foster children to Trick or Treat Street.
"When I began fostering pregnant teens, I discovered that some of them had never been trick-or-treating," she said. "Even though they were older, they loved Trick or Treat Street. One girl was so thrilled she started crying."
Now the grandmother of 4- and 10-year-old grandsons, Turner said Trick or Treat Street has become a family tradition.
"When I opened my own accounting office and joined the Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce, I went from an attendee to a participating business with my own booth," Turner said. "I discovered that both sides of the line are fun, whether you're giving or receiving. My grandsons love to give out candy at the booth after they're done trick-or-treating."
Her appreciation for the event became apparent a year ago when Turner became a member of the chamber's board of directors. When asked to choose an event to chair, she promptly selected Trick or Treat Street.
"This is my way of giving back to the community that helped me provide a safe place for my own family to trick or treat," she said. "It's such a positive environment for everyone, regardless of age. And it's so much more than trick-or-treating. There's music, games, bounce castles, food and contests, too."
Longtime chamber member Jim Johnson said he's amazed at the event's growth over the years, especially compared to the first Trick or Treat Street 28 years ago.
"It was a pretty modest affair," he said. "It took place in the U-Save parking lot on 301 and there were probably a total of 10 businesses involved. Riverview High School didn't even exist."
The event was relocated later to YMCA's Camp Cristina and then to its current home at the high school, 11311 Boyette Road.
Johnson always has volunteered at the event. Now he's assisted by his son, James III, and his 21-year-old grandson, James IV, who grew up trick-or-treating at the event.
Last year, an estimated 5,000 parents and children attended Trick or Treat Street, collecting candy and other treats from more than 70 booths manned by local businesses. Johnson credits the chamber's collaboration with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, the Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department and Riverview High School with the event's success.
"I think the secret behind this doggone thing is the reputation of the chamber members, the law enforcement presence and the emphasis on safety first," he said. "You can count the number of problems we've had over the years on one hand."
Turner is also quick to acknowledge the event sponsors and volunteers, including the various high school clubs that participate.
"It takes a lot of volunteers and a lot of hard work to create a strong community event," she said. "And there are never enough volunteers. We can always use more."
Contact D'Ann Lawrence White at [email protected]