Costumed kids get treated

Corrie Driebusch

Kiira Tietjen, a Music freshman dressed as an urban cowgirl, poured “secret” ingredients into the black cauldron in front of her. A group of children stared back with wide eyes as Tietjen mixed the “magic potion.”

The baking soda and vinegar creation exploded over the rim of the cauldron onto the Halloween table cloth.

“They are very excited,” said Communication freshman Robert Lavenstein, who worked with Tietjen on Public Affairs Residential College’s Project Pumpkin booth. “They have big reactions on their faces.”

About 800 to 900 children attended Project Pumpkin on Wednesday, an event sponsored by the Northwestern Community Development Corps that transformed the second floor of Norris University Center into a candy store for the eyes.

The attendees, ranging from toddlers to teenagers, enjoyed candy and free performances by Purple Haze and Boomshaka from 4 to 6 p.m.

More than 200 Northwestern student volunteers, dressed as witches, clowns, angels and more, worked to make the event run smoothly.

“I think the kids really enjoyed seeing all the college kids dressed up,” said Weinberg sophomore and second-time chaperone Sara Kelly. She took seven elementary schoolers around the second floor of Norris to collect candy.

But Project Pumpkin isn’t just about traditional trick-or-treating.

Whereas some of the 65 booths just gave out candy, most awarded the treats for winning — or just playing — a variety of games and competitions, such as beanbag tosses and apple bobbing. Some booths allowed students without costumes to liven up their everyday outfits with face painting, manicures and mask making.

Evanston resident Luther Bryant found himself and his 4-year-old son, dressed as a pirate, overwhelmed in the hectic Louis Room. But no matter the crowds, Bryant said Project Pumpkin is a good event.

“It’s wonderful for the community,” Bryant said. “It gives the kids something different to do and they get to see the campus.”

Booth Committee Chairwoman Sarah Mazzone said she worked more than 20 hours with other committee members to make sure everything ran smoothly. She said it took many e-mails to coordinate groups and rooms and make sure each had a different theme.

“It’s a great event,” said Mazzone, a Communication sophomore. “The groups have really come through.”

NCDC Campus Outreach Chairwoman Sarah Song said Project Pumpkin had a bit of a “rough start” with some bus delays. NCDC Special Events Co-chairwoman Rebecca Maltzman noted that every year there is a challenge transporting all the children to Norris, and every year the executive board tries to perfect it.

Maltzman, an Education senior, said she was very happy with this year’s event.

“It was bigger than it’s ever been before,” she said. This year’s estimated attendance surpassed last year?s by more than 100 children.

Maltzman said the themes for the rooms, such as the pirate-themed Northwestern Room, were new this year. She also said 11 to 12 groups, such as District 65 in Evanston and the Boys and Girls Club of Chicago, attended.

Domonique McCord with Jane Addams Hull House Service Connection brought a group of 5 to 13 year olds to Project Pumpkin. McCord, Education ’01, said she was reminded of the event by members of historically black sorority Delta Sigma Theta.

“(The children) are enjoying the different stations,” McCord said. “It’s not just getting candy, there’s interaction.”

Maltzman said that this year, Project Pumpkin tried to expand the range of attendance beyond social service centers and after-school programs. She said she saw a lot of faculty members with their families.

“We made a big effort this year to reach out,” she said.

Reach Corrie Driebusch at [email protected]