TUPELO – Five Tupelo churches will offer a downtown Halloween night alternative to neighborhood trick-or-treating this year, hosting their Trunk-Or-Treat along Jefferson Street.
First United Methodist, First Presbyterian, All Saints’ Episcopal, First Christian and King’s Gate churches are teaming up with the Lee County Library and Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association to provide a safe, traffic-free environment to gather and eat candy.
Volunteers will decorate their cars and line Jefferson Street from Green Street to Robins Street with their trunks open and full of candy.
The streets will be closed to traffic and entertainment and food will be provided. The events are from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
“I’m excited because last year, three churches did it and we added two churches plus the library and downtown who called us to be a part of the event,” said Kristen Partin, older children’s coordinator at First United Methodist Church. “It’s a great chance for the entire community to come together and provide a safe place for the children to trick-or-treat.”
Partin said there is no charge for hamburgers and hotdogs but they will accept donations to help cover costs.
First Baptist Church also will host a public event Thursday at Robins Field. The event will be from 5 to 8 p.m. and will provide candy and inflatables.
Open church events will need to be a destination for some instead of heading to larger Tupelo neighborhoods. Two Tupelo neighborhoods are closing their streets to outside trick-or-treaters this year because of traffic and safety concerns from previous years.
David Parker, Spring Lake Homeowners Association president, said in previous years cars lined each side of each street in the neighborhood, creating safety hazards for children.
Chris Richburg, president of the Oak Meadows Homeowners Association, said they have had similar problems and had some children separated from their groups last year.
The two neighborhoods have received block party permits from the city and will place a barricade at the entrance of the neighborhood. Tupelo Police Maj. Jackie Clayton said the volunteers manning the barricade have the authority to turn cars away during the permitted time.
“The block party permit is going to greatly reduce traffic congestion,” Parker said. “It’s gotten to where it’s dangerous to maneuver your car through the neighborhood. Children come in from surrounding counties – we’ve had a school bus come in – and even from Alabama. It’s gotten so congested that we’re concerned for the children’s safety – and not just our children, their children, too.”
Richburg said he checked with Mayor Jason Shelton and members of the City Council to make sure what they’re doing is OK.
“I’ve heard through the grapevine that there are some rumblings we’re doing this for the wrong reasons,” Richburg said. “It is strictly because having that many people in the neighborhood is a liability.”
Clayton said parents need to make sure to respect permitted roadblocks and keep an eye on their children at all times.
“Check the candy and remember there are many festivals in town that are good to go to,” he said. “Watch the children as they cross the roads and try to get everything done early so you’re not out too late. We’re going to have overtime officers and the street crimes unit out to watch over activities.”