The Kate Andrus Pumpkin Prowl

by Tara Aronson

It was five years ago while running as a candidate for HWDSB Ward 3 Trustee that Larry Pattison realized he would miss Halloween with his two daughters due to an unfortunate parenting schedule.

So he came up with an idea to host an alternative Halloween—just like the real thing but on a different date. Larry and his neighbour, the late Kate Andrus, embarked on a journey to recreate Halloween for parents who might experience scheduling challenges due to divorce, separation, work, or other responsibilities that may get in the way.

Always a dynamo, Kate named the event Pumpkin Prowl and designed the two-sided event flyer, which was painstakingly printed by the hundreds on her failing finicky printer. Larry went door to door, asking neighbours to hand out candy a week early. That first Pumpkin Prowl saw twenty kids dress up and go trick-or-treating in Crown Point, visiting all the neighbours who agreed to participate.

Since then the number of participants has doubled each year. The 2017 Pumpkin Prowl engaged 250 kids, had 40 neighbourhood houses handing out candy, including several community partners who provided activities for the kids. There were bouncy castles, a petting zoo, games, and coffee and hot chocolate compliments of Gage Park Diner. Vagabond Saints sponsored and printed cotton trick-or-treat bags for the first 100 kids, and Jet Propelled developed beautiful marketing materials for the cause. Councillor Matthew Green helped support the event with a $1,000 sponsorship.

The response has been overwhelming. Crown Point residents are coming out in droves; parents and grandparents of trick-or-treaters are offering to volunteer for this year’s event. For the organizers, going from a small, intimate event with a few kids to a project of this scale has been both humbling and inspiring.

Preparations for the event’s fifth anniversary include a name change that honours one of the founders: the Kate Andrus Pumpkin Prowl.

“She was an intellectual giant whose legacy will continue to live on in hearts, minds, and advocacy of our city,” notes Councillor Green. Kate is truly missed, and this community event wouldn’t be what it is without her.

This year promises to be even more spectacular. There will be activity booths sponsored by the Special Needs Resource Centre, Beautiful Alleys, Pride Hamilton, Messy Play Studio, My Free Hamilton, Erich’s Cupboard, Determination Martial Arts, and Mountain Kidz Club. There’ll be a petting zoo (weather permitting) from Urban Zoo, bouncy castles from Jump Start Rentals, and of course, there’s a special secret guest from Penny Pincher Costumes Inc. Wonderful supporters Vagabond Saints and Jet Propelled are back again with their marketing genius.

What makes this event truly special for Crown Point though is the community itself. It’s the neighbours who open their doors by agreeing to hand out candy to hundreds of kids, the volunteers who come out to help make the event run smoothly, the community members who donate candy so our neighbours don’t have to foot the ever-growing bill, and the kids who participate in a community event dedicated to them and their families. From a father’s simple need, a community festival has grown.

Get your costumes ready for this year’s prowl on Saturday, October 20, 2018, at Belview Park and visit the website for details at http://www.pumpkinprowl.ca. Everyone is welcome!

Tara Aronson

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