There will be bats and spiders and pumpkins galore, but you won’t find ghosts or ghouls or other scary sights at this event.
The Fall Harvest Festival at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center is a celebration of the season and of the living things we associate with autumn and Halloween.
As many as 200 volunteers got the festivities going Thursday night by carving jack-o’-lanterns out of about 300 pumpkins in preparation for the 26th annual event this weekend.
Makenna Stover, 6, of Huntingdon, got right to work on her pumpkin — a vampire she took pride in having created in her first-ever carving endeavor.
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She wasted no time in scooping out the inside, cutting away like a pro, then admiring her masterpiece before hiking it up onto her shoulder to deliver it to a quickly filling wheelbarrow.
From there, it would be hauled away with the others to line the path of the Children’s Halloween Trail. It’s an “educational twist on Halloween,” festival coordinator Brian Sedgwick said.
Makenna, who worked alongside her mother, Jaime Stover, was among the youngest volunteers.
They were surrounded by Penn State students who arrived in groups to help out — hauling and setting up the jack-o-lanterns along the trail, washing pumpkins, directing the flow of foot traffic and, of course, carving their own creations.
“It’s really nice that everyone helps each other,” said Caroline Kelley, a Penn State student from Malvern who was there with fellow members of the Penn State Finance Society.
Sedgwick said the event used to be run by a much smaller group of people. But in recent years the students have really stepped up. On Thursday, they set up and cut up, plied with a little food and music in a party atmosphere.
“It’s my favorite night of the year,” Sedgwick said. “It’s better than Christmas.”
On Saturday and Sunday, the student volunteers will put on costumes, guide children along the trail and lead activities. They’ll talk about bats and owls and spiders and pumpkins. They’ll help with jack-o’-lantern carving and the children’s costume contest.
There will also be face painting, music, entertainment and natural history programs.
Sedgwick said he expects about 1,500 people throughout the weekend and that tickets for the Halloween trail are going fast.
So, if you want to get in on the not-so-scary fun, reserve your spot — and don’t forget to dress up.