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Plenty of treats (and a few tricks) for kids at Halloween Fest

Anayelli Dens(right) age 9 Waukegan about duel against her friend SandrYapiage 10 MundeleHalloweenfest Bowen Park. | Mark Ukena~For Sun-Times Media

Anayelli Denson (right), age 9 of Waukegan about to duel against her friend Sandra Yapia, age 10 of Mundelein at Halloweenfest at Bowen Park. | Mark Ukena~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 30, 2012 6:08AM

People sat on hay bales, drank hot “witches brew,” and warmed up by the orange glow of a bonfire.

Some donned coats over costumes and rode around the park on a cob-webbed train.

Others, opting to hoof-it, took the “haunted walk” through the woods. Some subjected themselves to encounters with ghosts and zombies in a maze-riddled haunted house.

In any case, thousands enjoyed the annual Halloween Fest at Bowen Park in Waukegan on Saturday that was sponsored by the Waukegan Park District.

“This (event) has really grown. And the nice thing is, it’s all free,” said Marilyn Kern, a registration clerk at the Belvidere Recreation Center who handed out orange plastic bags to be filled with treats.

Kern, who has been working for the park district for 24 years, said the Halloween event has been taking place for around two-decades. “We normally get between 4,000-5,000 people, depending on the weather,” she said.

Also handing out bags at the entrance to the event was Norma Jensen, a volunteer with the Waukegan Citizens Police Association. “I like the kids, so this is a wonderful thing for me to do. We (CPA) help out every year with traffic, games, whatever we can do,” she said.

Visitors crunched oak leaves underfoot to get to games and inflatables, including a giant orange pumpkin. There were vendors selling food and small toys. A popular place to visit was a cookie-decorating table lined with volunteers ready to dollop orange and black frosting onto a big sugar cookie, allowing kids to finish off decorations with spoons of sprinkles.

“I just love doing this and seeing all the costumes,” said Jennie Croft, a park district employee who supervised the cookie table. Several local high school and college students volunteered at the cookie table, including Kelsey Benson, a senior at Zion-Benton High School who is also an employee of the special recreation district.

Emily Nevarez of Waukegan brought her grandson Carlos Cortez, 8, who had not to come to the event before. “He is dying to get into the haunted house,” she said.

Others opted to play games including bowling, the goal being to knock down as many bright orange pins as possible. Alfredo Luna, 9, tried his luck while donning a furry, gray big-bad wolf costume. His sidekick, Crystal Huereta, 5, dressed as Little Red Riding Hood also gave it a shot.

“Everyone gets a prize. They can do it as many times as it takes,” said volunteer Ruth Wachowiak.

Yanessa Cruz, 5, dressed as a broken doll; and her big brother Ariel, 9, a banged-up football player, were handed treats from vendor Dan Ptasienski of CharDan Events. “Besides Witches Brew (hot chocolate), we are serving up Monster Mash.” His wife Cheryl explained the Monster Mash is a sloppy-joe sandwich.

In her fur-trimmed parka, Jurate Graszczynski of Round Lake Beach huddled on a hay bale with her 18-month-old son Justin who was dressed as a lion. “The rest of my kids are inside the haunted house,” she said. “That’s too scary for me.”

Trey Brownell, 9, a resident of Great Lakes, had just come out of the haunted house with his father and a friend. “Something jumped out from behind the corn stalks in there and scared me,” he said.

Brothers Jack, 7, and Julian McCarthy, 12, of Zion were escorted through the haunted house by their mother Monica Castaneda. “It was great!” the group announced when they exited.

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