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By J. Patrick O’Leary

What started as two parents’ attempt to continue an annual children’s Halloween party after Martensen Elementary School’s closure has grown into a community-wide celebration attracting crowds of more than 3,000 people.

Trunk or Treat will mark its seventh year on Saturday, Oct. 28, 4 to 6 p.m., on The Green, 7101 W. 38th Ave.

Billed by Localworks as a fun, safe trick or treat for kids and their families with participation from firefighters, the police, businesses and community members, the free event boasts a haunted house, car-trunk-decorating contest, “Thriller” zombie dancers and, of course, candy.

Kim Harr served on the local PTA when Martensen closed down, which put an end to the school’s annual Halloween party. She and her husband, Chad, wanted to continue the celebration, which featured candy distributed from the trunks of automobiles decorated for the holiday.

“We could try this in the parking lot of the (Wheat Ridge) middle school,” Kim recalls. “That’s when they started revitalization of 38th Avenue, so it was a good idea.”

The couple organized the event, and paid for printing and posters out of their own pocket. Then-chief Kelly Brooks of the Wheat Ridge Fire Department stepped in to help, as did then-board-member Tom Abbot of Wheat Ridge 2020 and then-city-councilor Joyce Jay.

“We ended up with 200 kids” and eight cars, she said.

Last year there were 3,500 people, 20 volunteers and 40 cars, according to Localworks. This year crowds could reach 4,000.

The middle school is now Stevens Elementary, but the parking lot continues as the venue. Participation has doubled every year, with new attractions added.

The second year, Localworks – then called Wheat Ridge 2020 – took on the event to cover insurance costs.

In year three, Chad decided the event needed an old-fashioned haunted house, the second-most-popular attraction, run entirely by volunteers. This year the house’s actors will be orchestra and choral students from Wheat Ridge High School.

Rise Dance Company will kick off the event by performing a zombie-themed “Thriller” dance, as they have for several years.

The Kiwanis Club will once again set up and run games during the event.

Kim said a costume parade would be “too big” with the number of participants, but first, second and third prizes – typically gift certificates provided by sponsors – are handed out to winners of the trunk-decorating contest.

Founding sponsors – organizations that have started and continue to support the event – include the Neighborhood Gazette, Lakota Sky Environments and Compass Mechanical. St. Peter and Paul’s Catholic Church is a supporting sponsor, providing $500.

“We are looking for additional candy sponsors,” adds Ashley Holland of Localworks. “Any person or company that donates 10 pounds of candy or more will be recognized at the event.”

Costumed revelers need only show up to participate in the free event. People wanting to decorate their vehicles and hand out treats can sign up on the Ridge at 38 web site, at ridgeat38.com/play/trunk-or-treat/.

“They don’t have to, but it does help us plan,” said Kim, as there is enough room in the parking lot.

Two weeks away from this year’s event, what’s still needed?

“The biggest thing we always need is the candy,” Kim said. “We try to supply extra candy if they run out.” Trunk-or-Treat participants are asked to come with 1,500 to 2,000 pieces of candy each. Donations can be dropped off at Brewery Rickoli, Clancy's Irish Pub, Colorado Plus, Infinitus Pie, Personal Achievement Martial Arts, and Right Coast Pizza.

As always, the event wraps up by 6 p.m.

“It’s always been from four till six for safety, as it gets dark pretty quickly,” Kim explained. “We want to be able to see everyone coming in and out of parking lots.”

It also saves the cost of setting up lights.

“It’s always been very family friendly, for all ages to enjoy.”

For more information, visit ridgeat38.com/play/trunk-or-treat/; or contact Locaworks at 720-259-1030.