BIDDEFORD — Batman, the Incredible Hulk and a fireman all walk into the YMCA. And no, that’s not the beginning of a joke.

On Friday night, it actually happened, as the Northern York County Family YMCA hosted its annual Fright Night event, inviting children ”“ and their parents ”“ to don their Halloween costumes a bit early and indulge in some ghoulish fun.

Of all the whimsical and colorful creations brought to life by facepaint, plastic masks and fairy wings, the only fanciful being that didn’t feel like playing was Mother Nature. While it didn’t quite rain, drizzly and damp conditions forced the event indoors for the first time since its inception, inspiring its organizers to make some last-minute changes to ensure it avoided cancellation.

Not only did Fright Night dodge that fate, but attendees came in droves, crowding the hallways and auxiliary buildings to line up for candy, crafts and games. Anyone over four feet tall who attempted passage through the Y’s main corridor was confronted by a wall of smiling young faces, many of them colored and shaded to look like superheroes, monsters and creatures that go bump in the night.

David Jenkins, one of the event’s coordinators, couldn’t have been more pleased with the turnout. Days before, he had worried that perhaps wet weather would keep people at home. In the past, one of Fright Night’s most popular activities was the hay ride, which was not a feature of this year’s event.

But a little creativity went a long way. Years previous, a staple attraction was the “Trunk or Treat,” in which area businesses decorated the trunks of cars and vans with festive orange lights and lacy cobwebs; representatives of those businesses would dole out candy contained within. Necessarily, it was an outdoor activity. In response to the threat of rain, Jenkins and his team moved the candy giveaway to the Y’s interior, with fanciful decorations festooned around doorways, hallways and auxiliary rooms.

“We didn’t want to encourage kids to walk around in the rain and go into the weekend with a good chance of getting sick,” said Jenkins.

The change in strategy worked. It wasn’t long before the plastic pails toted by tots were filled with confectionery concoctions.

Bella Hazlerig, 6, stocked up on sweets before hitting the game room, where mini golf and other activities ensured that kids had plenty of things to do to distract them from the damp. Hazlerig said her favorite game was the “Witch Toss,” in which the goal is to toss a plastic ring around the pointy hats typically favored by those wart-nosed mischief makers.

Maryann Packard, Hazlerig’s aunt, works at the Y and has been taking her niece to Fright Night since the beginning, effectively kick-starting a new annual tradition. Packard said the event extends the Halloween holiday.

“It makes it more fun,” she said. “It gets the community together.”

Lillian Benegoss, 3, experienced Fright Night for the first time, and was especially excited to get her face painted in the crafts room. Her mother, Adrienne Benegoss, heard about the event from a friend at the last minute and thought it would be fun to bring her daughter along.

“I told her it was two Halloweens we were doing,” she said. “She was excited. She squealed.”

She wasn’t the only one. Jenkins couldn’t give an estimate on how many showed up to this year’s Fright Night, but it was a testament to the event’s appeal that the swelled crowds seemed to rival attendance of years past, when more than 300 people swarmed the Y campus for some early tricks and treats.

“Many of them have come to this since the beginning,” said Jenkins. “The increase in attendance over the past few years speaks for itself.”

James Agreste, 4, was among those waiting to get his face painted. Excitement over the colorful holiday made him smile as he expressed his affinity for ghosts and pumpkins, as well as Hershey’s Kisses and candy bars.

And though Fright Night was fun, Agreste was already plotting his game plan for Halloween night:

“I’m gonna get candy!” he said.

— Staff Writer Jeff Lagasse can be contacted at 282-1535, Ext. 319 or [email protected].



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