Middle school students offer Halloween treat for young kids

Posted: Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Little ghosts will roam and plastic ducks will be yanked out of the water by magnets, as middle school students put on the popular Ghost Walk at Mount Jumbo Gym.

The Halloween event for young children is a 50-year-old tradition in Douglas, so much so that few children there go trick-or-treating, longtime residents said. It is scheduled from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday at the gym on the corner of Fourth and D streets, and is open to kids through grade five.

But the Ghost Walk - where costumed kids parade on stage, play carnival games for prizes and walk home with a bag of candy - has been on hold since its former sponsors, the Douglas Lions Club and the city, discontinued it in 2001.

The event used to attract about 300 children, said Gerry Dorsher, who was active in the Douglas Lions until the organization disbanded this past spring.

"I remember taking our daughters there," said Peggy Poor. "Our oldest daughter wasn't even a year old when I took her to the Ghost Walk."

That daughter, Caroline Byford, was dressed in Chinese pajamas, a red velvet hat and a braided wig for her first toddling Ghost Walk.

"It brings back a lot of good memories," Peggy Poor said.

The Ghost Walk may be scarier for children than for spectators. Myiia Whistler, the city's recreation supervisor, remembers walking across the stage as a child. She was "terrified," she said. "But you knew you had to do it to get your treats."

This year's Ghost Walk is the brainchild of Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School science teacher Bobby Jones, who was looking for a community-service project for his students. They got help, physical and financial, from other teachers and students, and from residents and businesses. The event will cost about $2,000, Jones said.

The city, co-sponsor of the Ghost Walk, is providing insurance coverage and supervision at the city-owned facility, Whistler said.

"I grew up in Douglas, so the Ghost Walk was a big part of my Halloween," he said. "Its nice to see a group excited about doing it and that has the energy to put it on, and bring some good, safe fun to the kids."

The Dzantik'i Heeni students revamped the games, but they're aware of the age group they're appealing to, and keeping out the blood and guts in the decorations, Jones said.

On Tuesday, during their lunch, students were busy gluing, painting, counting plastic treat bags and making other preparations.

"This is the bat toss," said Cameron Jones, an eighth-grade student, as he repaired a piece of plywood painted with figures of Dracula, a werewolf and Frankenstein. "Oh, they changed it to the spider toss."

Children will get prizes of Beanie Babies for throwing toy spiders through holes in the board.

Seventh-grader Jordan Curbow and eighth-grader Austin Dukowitz were in charge of the Plinko game, in which ping-pong balls will cascade down a board dotted with thin dowels hence the plinking sound and fall into baskets.

Jones "said to come up ideas, so we came up with ideas," Jordan said.

Amanda Hansen, an eighth-grader, was gluing washers on the backs of plastic ducks. The washers had been attached to their heads, but that pushed the heads down.

Hansen said she volunteered for the event " 'cause I've gone to the Ghost Walks before. I've been going since I was really little. Everybody was there and it was always really fun."

Rich Poor, who was born in Juneau 58 years ago and raised in Douglas, said the Ghost Walk was started to get kids off the streets and out of mischief on Halloween.

"Before that time, us kids used to soap windows. Around downtown Douglas and downtown Juneau there was a lot of soaping going on and egg-throwing," he said, not entirely remorsefully.

But children enjoyed the Ghost Walk.

"It was the one place you could go and parade across the stage in a costume and get judged and win a prize," said Poor, who has since taken his grandchildren. "I remember one year I won a Mickey Mouse watch, which was a pretty big deal to me."

Dorsher and his wife Beverly helped organize the Ghost Walk until it ended for lack of help and other problems. Bev Dorsher died recently.

"My Beverly for sure would be pleased it's going to continue," he said.

Eric Fry can be reached at efry@juneauempire.

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