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Old-school theme accents church’s drive-thru fall festival

By KAREN THIEL

For the Washington Daily News

 

A 71-year-old board game meant for quarantined children during the 1950s polio epidemic has been adopted as the theme of this year’s Fall Event at First Church of Christ in Washington, encouraging potential participants to “look out for Mister Mint, the Gingerbread Man, Princess Lolly and Grandma Gooey” — all characters from the board game Candy Land.

“It’s a cool parallel. Human nature is the same no matter the time period and, at the core, people want community,” said youth pastor Tim Hallstrom, about the pandemic-related connection. “Games bring people together, and that’s what we’re trying to do Saturday. We want to offer a sense of community during this time of pandemic and quarantine.”

The iconic game was invented by a retired teacher in 1949. While she was in the polio ward of a San Diego hospital, she longed to help entertain the many children also there, experiencing homesickness, depression and feelings of abandonment because their parents’ visits were limited by work schedules and other family needs.

Like the original game, this weekend’s drive-thru event will feature a kid-sized gingerbread house, giant lollipops and candy canes, and a signpost featuring many of the game’s iconic locations: Gumdrop Pass, Rainbow Trail and Candy Castle among them. Led by Hallstrom, who will greet participants as Mister Mint, church volunteers will add whimsical, costumed as characters from the game.

About 13 cars will also be decorated in the spirit of typical pre-pandemic Halloween “trunk or treat” events. All candy will be given to children from the passenger-side windows of their cars. Hallstrom said every piece of candy will be individually wrapped and distributed by volunteers with “big old tongs that they’ll use to grab the candy and put it into the children’s bags.”

There are very few rules and procedures. Children through fifth grade may receive candy.

“We’re not turning down middle school kids from sixth and seventh grades if they come, but high schoolers are definitely too old,” Hallstrom said.

Walk-ins will not be allowed to go through the line. Parking, directed by church volunteers, will include space in Paul Funeral Home’s nearby lot to avoid traffic back-ups.

In keeping with the event’s “old-school vibe,” participants will be offered a pictorial souvenir of themselves and their candy, taken with a Polaroid camera that ejects individual photos and develops them in a matter of minutes. Asked what might be offered for the adult drivers, Hallstrom said they get “the pleasure of seeing their children happy. We do this to reach out to the community, to show the love of Jesus and to create a safe alternative Halloween event for the kids to get out, wear their costumes, and have fun with their friends and family. And if they don’t have a place to worship, there’s room for their families here.”