In my hometown (well, one of them) of Demopolis, Alabama, there is a 48-year-old tradition called Christmas on the River. Thousands of people come from all over to enjoy the four-day-long festival, especially the Saturday festival downtown and the Saturday night parade on the Black Warrior River — “where the floats really float.”
It’s something I grew up on and enjoyed as a youngster and as a grownup.
I couldn’t help thinking about that Saturday during the Halloween Scavenger Hunt here in Princeton. That idea did so much for the community that I had to sit down and write about it.
If you missed out, the scavenger hunt went from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, with the premise that Frankenstein stole a fire truck and hid it somewhere in town.
Participating businesses not only provided candy to the trick-or-treaters but also a clue that helped them find the fire truck along with Frankenstein doing his community service of handing out candy. Answers to riddles spelled out on an answer sheet provided a letter to the big location clue — in this case, City-County Park.
Those who found the truck were put into a drawing for prizes. It didn’t matter if you were the first to solve the riddles or the 498th.
Mayor Kota Young said the idea was the result of brainstorming between him, the Princeton Rotary Club and the Princeton Optimist Club.
“Princeton Rotary was a major driving force behind the event, trying to get everything et up,” he said. “Princeton Optimists also contributed monetarily.
“Also, a shout-out to the first responders — the firefighters, police officers and everybody who contributed to make sure that this was as safe a trick-or-treating alternative as we could provide.”
I want to start by giving high praise to the 42 businesses and organizations that took part in the scavenger hunt. It would not have been as much fun with just a handful of businesses passing out candy.
The downtown area was jumping Saturday as trick-or-treaters and their families went from business to business collecting candy and clues.
Of course, high-fives to the trick-or-treaters and their families. They certainly got into the “spirit” of things and, better yet, most of them came with facemasks on to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, as did the people handing out candy and clues. Those facemasks certainly did not take away from the costumes that they had on.
Thank you to those who contributed to the prize fund for this inaugural event. That just added to the trick-or-treaters’ fun as they went through their quest.
Congratulations, also, to Mayor Young and brainstorming contributors for coming up with the idea and its logistics. The fun of trick-or-treating combined with the challenge of a puzzle and excitement of a scavenger hunt made for a wonderful time for everyone.
The Halloween Scavenger Hunt helped to bring us together as a community — businesses and citizens, children and adults — to have a bit of fun in a time when fun seems really hard to come by.
I’m hoping that this can be an annual tradition here in Princeton, something that residents can look forward to each year as a community Halloween event.
Perhaps businesses can take part in some kind of window display contest. The Princeton-Caldwell County Chamber of Commerce could get involved in judging and prizes, and there seems to be several opportunities in the scavenger hunt for sponsors to support it.
The Black Patch Festival and Small-Town Christmas serve us well as community traditions and, COVID willing, will continue for years to come. I look forward to next year’s Halloween Scavenger Hunt, and I hope you do, too. I can’t think of a more fun way for the community to go trick-or-treating.
It’s hard to come up with fun ideas during a pandemic, but Saturday’s Halloween Scavenger Hunt showed me that the strength and sense of community here will always prevail.
David B. Snow is the news and sports reporter for the Princeton Times Leader. He can be reached at 270-365-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org.