On Sunday, Oct. 24, little children, joined by their families, packed downtown East Lansing wearing their costumes. All were eager to paint pumpkins and collect candy from local businesses participating in the Great Pumpkin Walk.
The pumpkin walk started in the early 2000s and was mainly centered around allowing local businesses to be able to promote themselves to families, as well as bringing the community together through trick or treating.
“In 2019, that's the first year that they had the magician and pumpkin painting and made it more of an event versus just trick or treating at businesses,” marketing & advertising creative specialist for the City of East Lansing Ella Signs said.
This is the first pumpkin walk that marks the return after the pandemic.
“Every year, East Lansing holds the Great Pumpkin Walk,” Signs said. “Last year, we didn't because of COVID. But this year is back. I've heard that there's a couple thousand kids that normally come down trick or treating. We encourage them to dress up.”
Even performers like Cameron Zvara, a comedy magician that performed at the walk, recognized the comeback of the town at the event.
“After the last couple years where, you know, people have been down and inside, it kind of just felt good to be outside and see the community vibrant, and just having fun, and just having a good time in their costumes,” Zvara said. “Just interacting together, it just felt good to feel like a community again.”
Performers and local businesses prepared for the event, as well. Harper’s Restaurant and Brewpub, who has been doing this for many years, went all out in decorations.
“We had a clown talking,” owner Trisha Riley said. “We had two characters out there talking and it was almost hilarious because people — actually, even adults — asked, ‘Are there people in there?’”
The pumpkin walk plays an important role in recognizing local businesses and bringing the community together.
“It's really focused on highlighting the businesses and what they're doing to help give back to the community and help make the kids happy,” Signs said. “It's also a great way for the businesses to get recognition and visibility.”
Businesses did, in fact, benefit from the walk. El Azteco manager Antonio Urista said the event brought business to the restaurant, with people ordering food like chips and salsa to-go.
However, Harper's was closed during the walk due to their aim to make the walk only about the kids.
“I've lived here my whole life, and I've given back a ton to my community,” Riley said. “I just think that it just reinforces who we are as a family. It's a family-owned business. We do a lot of these kinds of things, and we actually love having Harper's because of it.”
It also served as a good chance for local performers to grow their audience.
“It was a good opportunity for some publicity, like there were, you know, thousands of people walking around during the Pumpkin Walk,” Trevor Dalrymple, member of the band Pretty Jane and the Magazines, said.
Saturday afternoon, the pumpkin walk ended as the kids went home ready to unpack their trick-or-treat baskets as businesses and performers reflected on the true reward of their role that day.
Most of the enjoyment came from the little kids and their costumes.
“It's amazing to me, because there's a lot of time and energy that goes into putting all those costumes together, getting them all in the car and coming down,” Riley said. “I mean, I just really honestly, it just warms your heart. You know, that's what life is about. Putting smiles on people's faces.”
Pretty Jane and the Magazines member Luca DiVergilio said his favorite part was seeing the kids dancing.
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“There was one point (where) there was like four or five kids just running around in the circle dancing in their little costumes, it was so cute,” DiVergilio said.
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