Locals Follow Trail To Woman’s Club

Nathan Adkisson

By Nathan AdkissonContributing Writer

At 1702 Chicago Ave. stands a large but quiet-looking brick building. The inside of the building came alive last week with the kind of energy that only 100 happy children in costume can impart.

A leopard chased a jellyfish while a spider sipped tea with the Queen of Hearts. The noise level climbed higher and higher as the children were overcome by the spirit of Halloween.

This was the Woman’s Club of Evanston’s 16th annual Fairy Tale Trail, which ran throughout last week at the group’s clubhouse.

Fairy Tale Trail is a non-threatening, non-scary Halloween environment for children ages 2 to 7. It began as a service to special-needs children, but it became so popular that the Women’s Club decided to add public hours on Friday afternoon and Saturday evening.

Kris Hartzell has worked on the Fairy Tale Trail for 12 years, but this was her first year as chairwoman of the event.

“This is an opportunity for people who can’t take part in a traditional Halloween,” she said. “There’s no candy, just good play.”

Hartzell said about 500 special-needs children come with school groups, and as many as 1,000 come during public hours. The proceeds from the entry fee pay for bus scholarships so special-needs children can be brought in from all over the Chicago area.

Fairy Tale Trail has existed long enough to become a multi-generational tradition.

“Some kids who work here remember when they came through as children,” Hartzell said.

Many children dress up in costumes for the event. The trail is held in a large room on the second floor of the clubhouse, where Woman’s Club members as well as local volunteer high school and college students are in costume.

“We had a lot of outside help,” Hartzell said. “The Evans Scholars put up the walls, and we have a lot of Kellogg students come in.”

Each of the eight rooms has a specific theme, such as “Alice in Wonderland” and “Old McDonald’s Farm.”

“It’s wonderful,” said Morton Grove resident Tina Holly, the mother of two boys. “It’s a riot in here.”

Holly’s son Matthew, 7, who was dressed as Harry Potter, waved a wand inside the wizard’s room and “cast a spell” on his friend, Charlie Hani, who attended as “Thing One” from Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat. Charlie, 7, was not so impressed.

“He does some tricks and he flicks the lights and he waved his hands ,and it’s not real,” Charlie said breathlessly.

Holly said this is the only event of its kind in the area.

“It’s unique and it’s not like all the other Halloween carnivals,” she said. “It blows all the other Halloween events away.”

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