Posted on October 29, 2010 by Preston DuBose
FlamesRising.com is pleased to present you with a look at how the fictional small town of Pinebox, Texas celebrates Halloween. Dubbed “Fall Fest,” find out how these residents get into the spirit of the season. For more about Pinebox and the games and stories that take place there, visit 12 to Midnight.
Fall Fest in Pinebox, Texas
While East Texas lakes lure hordes of sport fishermen every Summer, most travelers find Autumn the best time to visit the region. By October, one or more cold fronts have swept through the lower states and pushed out the high humidity and higher temperatures. Temperate weather makes it easier to enjoy the beautiful piney woods, the lakes, and “local flavor.”
Chief among the must-see attractions in East Texas is the Pinebox Fall Fest. Beginning on Halloween and ending on Day of the Dead, the town of Pinebox holds an enormous celebration that draws thousands of visitors each year.
“I like Fall Fest because we get out of school,” says Joni Hightower, age 9. With so many civic organizations involved in the festival, even the local school district incorporates the days off into their district calendar.
The Pinebox Fall Fest tradition began in the 19th century, although it was discontinued for a time at the behest of local religious leaders who felt that the celebration promoted paganism. The modern Fall Fest capitalizes on the fun and frivolity of Halloween ghosts and goblins while acknowledging religious sensitivities through more serious religious services incorporated throughout the festival.
The annual Fall Fest begins on Halloween morning with an interfaith blessing of food and drink. In generations past, Fall Fest was celebrated with a city-wide potluck dinner. In the days before refrigeration, some meals didn’t preserve as well as others, leading to food poisoning, “strange behavior”, and even deaths during the celebration. Thus it became tradition for local religious leaders to bless each individual dish. Today, a team of religious leaders from local churches bless the contents of each booth in the food and drink vending tents.
“I’m not superstitious, but ever since Pastor Fennell started blessing the Kiwanis Club hot dog booth 15 years ago we haven’t failed a single health inspection,” said club treasurer Jay Boatwright. “It’s all in good fun…but why take chances?”
After the morning blessing, a Fall Fest parade winds its way through the normally quiet streets. Some kids participate in the parade two or three times, marching at the front of the parade in the high school band then running back to the beginning to join a float. At the parade’s conclusion, revelers filter to the square in front of the county courthouse, where tents provide shelter for food vendor booths, a live music stage, and more.
As the sun sets on Halloween and the shadows lengthen across the square, hundreds of costumed revelers . Early in the evening, parents take the children through the food vendor tent for safe trick-or-treating.
“We’re glad to promote a safe alternative to going door to door,” says Chamber of Commerce spokesperson Ramona DeLeon. “As a parent, I know that I can give my kids a Halloween experience at the Trick-or-Treat Tents without worrying about razor blades in the candy or disappearing for three days with no memory of where they had been.”
“I like it, but it’s a little scary too” says Lashawna Curtis, age 8. “You can’t tell who anyone is ‘cause they’re all in masks. You don’t know who is really behind the mask.”
As the night grows later and the little ghosts, superheroes, and princesses go home, live bands draw adult costumed revelers through a cordoned-off street for an outdoor concert and block party. Midnight is marked by the Grand Unveiling when partiers all remove their masks—sometimes finding surprises at whom they’ve been dancing or flirting with.
“Sure back in the ‘80s we had a problem with underage drinking and a lot of shenanigans with mistaken identity, but we have that all under control now” says Sheriff Butch Anderson. “The street dance is probably one of the safest places to be during Fall Fest. We have more than a dozen uniformed and undercover officers on site to keep trouble from happening.”
Trouble is something that Fall Fest has struggled with from time to time. During Fall Fest the town’s population triples in size, causing accommodation and parking shortages, traffic accidents, and even the occasional missing partier.
“Fall Fest is a great time—don’t get me wrong. But with all those folks walking here and there at night…well, it pays to be careful. Sometimes it’s just older kids being mean, you know? But sometimes it isn’t,” White says. “I guess it wouldn’t be Halloween if sometimes things didn’t go bump in the night.”
Preston Dubose – 2010
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