Candies, costumes, ghosts, and ghouls – Halloween is here.
When most people think of Halloween, they may think of what to wear, or how they’re going to carve their pumpkins. But, the roots of Halloween heritage run much deeper.
In its early years, Halloween stemmed from the Gaelic festival, Samhain, marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the “darker half” of the year – the winter.
David Sheffler, Associate History professor at UNF notes, “There’s an Irish tradition, called Samhain, that’s associated with the harvest festival, that may be one of the origins of Halloween. In fact, a lot of the connections with things like spiritualism and concerns about the dead are often concerned about Samhain as a celebration.”
“I would probably make the argument that in several ways, certainly the way that Halloween is today, is directly related to Christianity,” Sheffler said.
As a means to protect their mortal selves from the spirits, people would wear scary masks and costumes to ward off evil spirits.
What started as a Celtic Harvest Festival, soon spiraled into a cultural phenomenon.
Today, Halloween is one of the most profitable holidays on the calendar.
Halloween is second only to Christmas in terms of consumer spending in the United States. Between candy, costumes, and decorations retailers can expect to earn over 7 billion dollars in the United States alone.
Many events locally and nationally play upon peoples’ fascinations with delighting in fright.
Lucas Meers, the Director of PR at the Jacksonville Zoo, says, “We get our information just by paying attention throughout the year by kind of looking at different organizations, we’ll visit other zoos, other facilities, that have ‘Spooktacular’ type events, we’ll maybe steal some of their ideas, but we are inspired, we have a lot of parents that are on the staff, so they kind of bring to the table what excites their children, what sort of movies are out, that sort of thing, that’s how we get our inspiration on our different themed characters and our areas.
From the modest celebrator to the Halloween fanatic – Halloween is marked by history.
After thousands of years, Halloween has become the one day a year when people indulge in fright, sweet delights, and play pretend.
Safety tips and alternative options for children on halloween
Trick or treating on Halloween night is the highlight of October, and kids look forward to it all month long. While going door to door is all about the perfect costume and the most candy for kids, it’s important for us all to remember safety comes first.
Typically, parents remind their little ghouls and goblins to be careful what doors they knock on and to get their candy checked before eating anything. While these are common safety concerns and practices for trick-or-treaters, Safe Kids Northeast Florida has some preventative safety tips that are more often forgotten.
“A lot of these things are your normal pedestrian safe walking rules, like children should walk on the sidewalk when there is a sidewalk available. If there is not a sidewalk, they need to walk on the left side of the road facing the traffic so they can be seen,” said Cynthia Dennis, Coordinator of Injury Prevention and Safe Kids Northeast Florida for the Players Center for Child Health at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. “Make sure their costumes fit them well, that they aren’t a trip hazard. Just paint their face and wear hats and things rather than a mask, which can obstruct their vision.”
Knowing how to keep Halloween safe and fun is important, but why limit all that fall fun to just one night? Local businesses put on fun festivities for kids, allowing them to indulge in candy and costumes all month long.
The annual Fall Festival at Chick-fil-a is one of many events held by local businesses that give kids another chance besides Halloween to show off their costumes and just have fun. During the festival, Chick-fil-a offers kids activities including face painting, balloon animals, inflatable football and ring toss games, a DJ with dancing and games and candy and treats distributed from tables by local vendors.
One of the kids attending the event, Jade Long, said that her favorite activities to do there are dressing up, eating and dancing. These activities keep her coming back year after year.
“I’ve been here since I was about five,” Long said. “Sometimes I see all my friends here from school, cause I usually go here. I usually go against them in something.”
The Fall Festival at Chick-fil-a isn’t the only fun place for kids to keep the anticipation of Halloween at bay. In St John’s County, Tommy Outley opens the doors to his event for kids of all ages to come and have what he says is “the best time of their life.”
“There is not a lot of events going after the preschool and elementary school kids,” Outley said. “So my thought was, what can I do to help the community, and also, what can we do for the families that really have nothing to do in the fall season.”
From September 26 to November 2, Outley converts his landscaping business into Tommy’s Pumpkin Patch and Fun Zone. No day at Tommy’s would be complete without gathering the family together for hay rides, bounce slides, duck races with old fashioned well pumps and even a leaf room. It also has a petting zoo with almost every farm animal imaginable.
“When I first came up with the idea, I wanted some old fashioned fun. So my thought was that there’s no electric, no video games, nothing to do but old fashioned fun,” Outley said. “Every kid comes in in ‘AWE,’ and every kid leaves screaming and crying cause they don’t want to leave.”
If trick or treating seems forever away, remember, you don’t have to wait for Halloween to have family fun this fall. There are lots of fun events for kids right here in Jacksonville all month long.
Local special effects artist shows off his talent for Halloween
Freddy Kruger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers. They have become household names in the film industry.
Horror movies have been terrorizing it’s viewers for decades, and we love it. In fact, horror has become one of the most profitable genres in Hollywood-making over 250 million dollars last year alone. But why do we enjoy being scared so much? Professor Stephen Boka explains the psychology behind horror films.
“Generally speaking horror just works because it’s something we all understand. It’s don’t get eaten alive,” says Boka, “you don’t have to say anything if something is coming after you, you run, you drive to survive instinctively.”
Sometimes that love for horror films is greater in certain individuals. New and talented actors, producers and writers are working on their craft everyday in hopes of getting better and making it big. Jacksonville is home to many budding talents.
Ben Howard, a University of North Florida student, enjoys writing horror movie scripts. He lives and breathes horror. Understanding how popular and loved these horror movie characters are helps Ben write better, memorable individuals.
“That’s the great thing about horror films is that they’re actually pretty complex characters … even more interesting than the heroes. Because can you even remember any of the names from Michael Meyers victims? No,” says Howard, “we don’t because they’re just there to be butchered.
One hidden horror gem in Jacksonville is Jay Woodley of Woodley Special Effects. Jay is the only licensed special effects artist in Jacksonville. His job is to make monsters come alive, on and off the big screen. To him, Halloween is just another day out of the year.
“The best way I can say it is, it’s kind of like being addicted to drugs,” says Woodley, “If I’m not making monsters, if I’m not making something scary, I feed for it, I have to have it, I have withdrawals, I go crazy.”
Woodley has worked on indie films, local haunted houses and even children’s plays. He is also only one of five special effects consultants for the United States military. He says he’d rather make monsters here in Jacksonville because of its rich film history – The Creature of the Black Lagoon was shot here in 1954.
“So horror culture, I think, is really black and white. It’s not so much of a culture as it really is a way of life,” says Woodley.
To him, this city holds many opportunities for horror film fans and he’s hoping the next Freddy or Jason just might be created right here in Jacksonville.
It’s that time of year again, the swelter of summer is giving way to the chill of fall. In celebration of the season, people are looking to decorate their doorsteps. Isle of Faith Church is one of the places Jacksonville locals go to find pumpkins for their houses.
David Liedtke, a patch volunteer, said the church will sell about four truckloads worth of pumpkins. They won’t get rid of all 10,000 pumpkins, but there won’t be many left. He said the leftovers are given to local pig farms.
Liedtke said they don’t charge for pumpkins, instead they recommend prices. “But we let people pay, some people may pay nothing, others probably pay more than what they’re worth,” said Liedtke.
Pumpkin patches aren’t the only places people are going to get their pumpkin fix. Cinotti’s is a local bakery creating its own fall favorites.
Owner Michelle Vining said the holidays are crunch time for the bakery. She calls the it her first home at this time of year. Among the many treats Cinotti’s has, pumpkin donuts are the biggest hit. In preparation for the release of the pumpkin donuts they fried for over 21 hours. She says they have become a yearly anticipated event, donuts sell out by 11 a.m.
Whether you’re carving a pumpkin or eating some sweet treats, fall has arrived to Jacksonville.
Halloween attractions in Northeast Florida
Attractions and festivities are not far away from Jacksonville this Halloween season. A short drive to St. Augustine allows patrons to immerse themselves in horrific and spooky events.
Warehouse 31 Unleashed attracts thrill seekers and brings them face-to-face with their deepest fears. Anna Lynn Patchell and her boyfriend enjoy going to the haunted house because of its short distance and low cost compared to other major attractions.
“You don’t have to pay $100 to enjoy a fun scream. You don’t have to go very far from Jacksonville, and we need more stuff like this here anyways,” said Patchell.
Creative Director Brandon Murawski, came from the original Warehouse 31 in Alabama. He brought an extension of the haunted house to St. Augustine this year and decided to notch up the scare factor. He built the St. Augustine warehouse to have more of a one-on-one experience.
“It’s a very personalized experience. It’s terrifying….I see the terror that comes out of patrons in there,” Murawski said. “It’s going to be the scariest, largest, most intense haunted house that you’ll ever experience.”
Warehouse 31 Unleashed is definitely not a calm, trick-or-treating experience. It’s a heart-pumping experience, not for the faint of heart.
Downtown St. Augustine also offers a spooky Halloween experience for those seeking an educational tour through the nation’s oldest city. St. Augustine Ghost Tours leads groups to common places in the city giving them historical background of ghost tales.
Tour guide Eric Sponberg, greatly enjoys telling the ghostly history of St. Augustine to travelers and even television networks like History Channel and Travel Channel.
Sponberg said, “One of the things that we do on our tour is incorporate a lot of history into it. So, you get stories about the buildings and the people here that you may not know.”
Sponberg, just like Murawski, is very passionate about the horror season.
“It’s interacting with the guests. It’s a real pleasure. You can play to the audience and meet people from all over the world,” Sponberg said.
The Halloween season is upon us and does not require a long trip out of town. St. Augustine is awaiting your arrival.
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