Several local churches are making sure children, and even adults, can have fun in a safe environment while celebrating the season with Halloween alternatives.
Ridge Manor United Methodist Church has partnered with Damascus Mission Faith Outreach to offer a fall festival from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today.
Children's activities include scarecrow making ($10 donation), hayrides, a bounce house, face painting, pumpkin painting and photo spots.
According to event coordinators Joanne and Ron Ritz, the food prepared by S.O.S Famous Bar-B-Que, available for purchase, will be the highlight of the festival.
"My mouth is watering already," Ron Ritz said. "The barbecue, with chicken and rib dinners, slabs of ribs, sandwiches, sides and homemade desserts like sweet potato pie will be available from 11 a.m. until they are sold out."
Another new feature of the festival is the collection of food for the homeless. Visitors are urged to bring canned or dry goods.
The church's pumpkin patch, where pumpkins of all sizes are for sale from 50 cents or more, is open daily from 9 a.m. to dusk (noon to dusk on Sunday) through Friday and will conclude with a Trunk or Treat for children from 4 to 7 p.m.
The church is at 34350 Cortez Blvd. in Ridge Manor. Call (352) 583-3770.
Saint Andrew's Episcopal Church will offer a free carnival-type program with games, prizes, goodies and face painting. The theme is "Heroes Unmasked."
The fun starts at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Krysher Hall. Costumes are welcome.
"There will be lots of fun. Come and see if you dare to solve 'the secret of the empty tomb,'" says a press release for the event.
The church is at 2301 Deltona Blvd., Spring Hill. Call (352) 683-2010.
Christian Life Assembly of God will present its annual Harvest Fest from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Friday.
"This will be a time of family fun, including exciting games, inflatable activities, food, clowns, candy and prizes," said senior Pastor John Hensel.
There will be a drawing for door prizes. Admission is free.
The church is at 13065 Jacqueline Road, just north of State Road 50, in Spring Hill. Call (352) 597-1139.
Another Harvest Fest will be hosted by Spring Lake United Methodist Church, 4191 Spring Lake Highway, Spring Lake. The free event will run from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Friday and will include food, inflatables, a maze, games and a Trunk or Treat for candy. Call (352) 799-7028.
Spring Hill Calvary Church of the Nazarene, 235 Cobblestone Road, Spring Hill, will host "Seek and Shine Night" from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday.
"We will host Trunk of Treat for families who are looking for a safe, non-scary environment for their kids," children's Pastor Alicia Thompson said.
Thompson said the event is interactive.
"The Gospel will be presented in a new way," she said. "Our main verse for the evening is from Matthew 5, Verses 15 and 16, 'Don't hide your light. Let it shine for all; let your good deeds glow for all to see, so that they will praise your Heavenly Father.' We want to illuminate our minds to shine brighter in our dark world."
In keeping with the theme, each child will receive a glow stick and a laminated pumpkin prayer puzzle.
"The goal is to receive candy and a puzzle piece at each trunk so that we can find the Christian jack-o'-lantern together," Thompson said. "He is much different than all the other pumpkins, and he shines for a better purpose, out of love."
The event is free, but Thompson requests that people bring a can of food for the hungry.
"We really need to stock our food pantry," she said. "We want to help our community with some food."
To participate by decorating your vehicle's trunk or by donating candy, call Thompson at (352) 397-5197.
Journey Fest 2008, a contemporary Christian youth and music event that features rock music and is billed as a "warm, friendly and fun environment for youth and their families," kicks off on Friday afternoon with "Hardcore Halloween."
The event will benefit its host, the Sertoma Youth Ranch, on Myers Road near Spring Lake. Gates open at 2 p.m., and the music begins at 5. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.
The fest will continue through Nov. 2 and features groups such as the Newsboys, Story Side B, Manic Drive, the Glorious Unseen, Urban D, Burden of a Day, This Day On, Among the Thirsty and Regret and Forgive Again. Local and regional bands will also perform - more than 35 bands will be showcased on multiple stages throughout the fest.
On Saturday, gates open at 10 and the music starts at 11 a.m. Sunday will be a day of praise and worship with times to be announced. The event will also feature Christian-oriented vendors with concessions available for purchase.
Tickets for Nov. 1 are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. The cost to attend both Friday and Saturday nights is $35. Nov. 2 performances are free. Tickets can be purchased at www.clicknprint.com or by calling toll-free 1-800-370-2364.
For information about the concert, visit www.JourneyFest.org. For information, visit www.SertomaYouthRanch.com.
Another Christian concert will begin at 7 p.m. Friday at Inglesia Pentecostal Arca Evangelica, 15531 Cortez Blvd., west of Brooksville. Youth X-Plosion 2008 will feature area performers such as Fuego and Ice, Rody, Alexis, G.I. Joe, Testimony, Mesianico, Shake Tha Ground and Yariel and Omy. The concert, now in its fifth year, is organized by the church youth. Free food will be available, and there is no admission charge. Call (352) 442-5218.
There will be a free Kid's Karnival from 2 to 4 p.m. Nov. 2 at Spring Hill United Church of Christ, 4244 Mariner Blvd., Spring Hill.
The outside event will feature cotton candy and popcorn as well as inflatable jumping toys, a ring toss, face painting and a fish pond. For those who are older, there will be bocce ball and a putting game. The carnival is one of the church's outreach events to families in the area and will be held regardless of weather. Call (352) 683-4870.