Swarms of ghouls, goblins, scary clowns, witches, princesses and superheroes descended on downtown Hinesville on Friday evening for the sixth annual Scarecrow Stroll and Beggars Night.
According to Hinesville Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Michelle Ricketson, this year’s event was bigger than ever.
“The fact that we can coordinate an event of this magnitude and offer it free to the public really speaks to the tremendous generosity of our business partners,” Ricketson said. “We had ideal weather, which helped bring people downtown. The total number of participants is difficult to determine because families can enter the event from 10 or more places. Past crowds were estimated at 10,000-plus. We feel pretty confident that we passed that mark.”
Brooke Ann Childers, HDDA Main Street and events coordinator, said there were more than 60 partners, booths and activity stations along Main and Commerce streets, Memorial Drive or Central Avenue. She said the event’s footprint was enlarged to allow for better crowd flow.
Throughout downtown, children were treated with candy and prizes; played games; rode inflatable slides, bouncy houses or hay rides; or had their faces painted or arms tattooed. Some children competed in a costume contest sponsored by The Heritage Bank.
Although only first names were given to enter the contest, boy and girl winners were picked in four age categories: 4 years and younger, 5-9 years, 10-15 years and 16 and older. Costumes picked included Princess Elsa from the movie “Frozen,” the Headless Horseman, Batman and Zombie Mom with Baby.
Even though they didn’t win any prizes, Xaiver Hill, 7, who dressed as an evil-eyed jack-o’-lantern, and Chris Liebmann, 9, who dressed a big crying baby, drew envious stares. Adults who dressed in the spirit of the season included Brigitte Shanken, who was made up like a hillbilly, and Chrislene Taylor, who came as a fairy.
Local businesses, banks, city departments, civic organizations and six churches participated in this year’s event. In fact, First Baptist Church on Memorial Drive held its annual fall festival concurrent with the event. As Don Taylor helped him set up a table to give away homemade chili and Brunswick stew, Ralph Dixon talked about the church event.
“This is our fall festival,” he said. “We have it every year. It consists of different booths with games and rides for the kids, plenty of food, lots of fun and lots of Christian fellowship.”
Nearby, Shannon Wilson was registering his daughter, Hope, and her friend, Leah Dancer. Both 7-year-olds were dressed as blonde princesses. Several booths down from them, Thomas Murphy, aka Batman, was raring back to throw a beanbag at a wooden target 10 meters away. Near the registration entry gate, a mother and four daughters waited in line, each wearing a Liberty Tax Service Lady Liberty crown.
The most densely packed crowds were on Main Street in front of the Coastal Courier and at First United Methodist Church at Central Avenue. There, inflatables attracted long lines of kids waiting for their turn to ride. Also in that area, Hinesville/Fort Stewart Shriners grilled hot dogs. While Carlos Ruiz was busy grilling hot dogs, parents stopped to take pictures of the Shriners’ hillbilly pickup parked nearby. It looked like a newer model of the one from “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
Another vehicle, which was parked on Main Street down from the Justice Center, was the focal point of a lot of camera enthusiasts, particularly those who are fans of the TV series, “The Walking Dead.” The vehicle was a large black hearse trimmed in lime green with a windshield sign, also in lime green, that read, “Zombie (Outbreak) Response Team.” A warning label on the back said “Zombie inside” and a hand-written message only Walking Dead fans can appreciate, saying “Follow me to Terminus.” A smaller sign on the passenger side read, “Helping the dead stay dead since 1984.”
“Actually, it’s a 1984 Eureka Cadillac hearse,” volunteer Long County fireman Peter Jennings said. “I built it into a zombie-mobile last year. This is the second year it’s been out here.”
Jennings’ zombie-mobile was appropriately parked in front of the old Liberty County Jail, which for the purposes of Scarecrow Stroll, was a haunted house sponsored by United Military Care Inc.