Trick-or-treating was an all-in Popeye-inspired affair for the Hunt family Friday night as they went from business to business picking up candy on the Lawrenceville Square.

Johnathan and Ashley were Bluto and Olive Oyl, respectively. Their oldest son, Silas, was Popeye and their younger toddler-age son, Simeon, was Swee’Pea. It was the Lawrenceville family’s first time attending the city’s Spooktacular event, and Johnathan Hunt said they were impressed by it.

“It’s so awesome and amazing,” he said as the family stood in line to enter one of the stores where candy was being handed out. “The stores are participating which is cool. I didn’t expect that. We haven’t been down to the courthouse yet, so we’re pretty excited to see what’s going on down there.”

Both Lawrenceville and Duluth hosted events Friday where officials in each city invited families to their downtown districts where they could do trick-or-treating in local businesses and enjoy activities in public spaces. In Lawrenceville’s case, it was the second annual Spooktacular on the Square. In Duluth, it was the fourth annual Howl on the Green.

In a way, the events benefitted both the families and the businesses.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Buford resident Kialyn Luna said as her son, Jaxson, picked out a free Halloween comic book at Galactic Quest. “It keeps the businesses full of people who may not have known about those businesses before, and it gives us a safe place for the kids to go trick-or-treating.”

Lawrenceville Economic Development Director Lisa Sherman said the purpose for her city’s event boiled down to one thing:cCommunity. It was mainly about bringing residents and business owners together for a fun night out.

In many cases, Sherman said, the city and the business community work hand-in-hand to come up with events that will draw the community together.

“Our businesses do a really good job of partnering with us on events,” she said. “We’ve had businesses come to us with ideas for events. Our St. Patty’s Day event and Oktoberfest are two examples of events where businesses came to us and said they wanted to do those events.”

Galactic Quest co-owner Cynthia Puttkammer said the comic book store enjoyed participating in the event because it gave the staff an opportunity to expose children to reading materials while also providing an opportunity to dress up in costumes.

The book store, which works with Lawrenceville to stage a similar Free Comic Book Day event in May, bucked the trend of giving out candy for Halloween. Instead of candy, children who visited Galactic Quest got to pick out a free comic book.

“It’s a wonderful event and we love working with the city on it,” Puttkammer said. “We welcome any opportunity to expose children to something they can read and we get lots of repeat customers.”

Conyers resident Alan Liptak, who works in Lawrenceville, said he liked the idea that businesses could get exposure from events like Spooktacular. Liptak brought his daughters, Audrey and Emily, to the event.

“Business-wise, it’s a great idea,” he said.

There were some similarities between Lawrenceville and Duluth’s events in that both drew thousands of people to downtown areas in Halloween costumes and they both had trick-or-treating at downtown businesses.

Each event had its own unique character though. Lawrenceville’s event went longer on the trick-or-treating while Duluth’s event transitioned from trick-or-treating to haunted hayrides and Halloween crafts after the first hour.

Duluth’s event later had a costume contest followed by Game of Thrones-inspired fire and acrobatic dancing that the city partners with LED Lighting to stage. It eventually ended with hundreds of children dancing in costumes on the Duluth Fall Festival Stage to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop The Feeling.”

Howl On the Green event coordinator Madison Chucci said the Halloween celebration is one of Duluth’s most popular events with about 8,000 believed to have attended it this year. Businesses are invited to participate as trick-or-treating stops, and Chucci said they have to provide their own candy if they chose to participate.

“We do a lot of kid stuff for this event,” she said. It’s actually a really good opportunity for us ot do the kids stuff because there’s tons of fall/Halloween-type kids activities that we can do, so we do the free crafts, the free hayrides and free candy with trick-or-treating on Main Street.”

I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta and eventually wandered to the University of Southern Mississippi for college. Earned a BA in journalism (double minor in political science and history). Previously worked in Florida and Clayton County.

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