The annual halloween party at the Niagara Regional Native Centre is one of the staff’s favourite celebrations.
Long-serving members of the friendship centre’s team can’t remember a time when they didn’t have it.
“I love every part of it. I love being at the door and watching everybody come in and seeing all the costumes. I love the costume contests that we do,” Dawn Moughtin told The Lake Report.
Moughtin, dressed as a beaded earring, was standing at the entrance, greeting costumed kids and families.
This was the centre's first Halloween back in person since the pandemic. They did a version of Halloween last year but it was more limited because of COVID-19 and social distancing protocols.
Inside, program co-ordinator Willow Shawanoo was calling “Popcorn” as costumed children entered the haunted house.
Popcorn was a codeword for child and it was her way of telling the "scarers" inside not to do anything too scary.
Akewgo program co-ordinator Wyller Fushtey was inside the haunted house ready to spook visitors.
He smiled behind his mask of corpse paint and gore when he shared his favourite scare of the night.
“When they were coming near the exit I jumped out (from the curtains) and I screamed 'get out' and they all jumped against the wall.”
The party featured a round of trunk or treat, free pizza, a dance floor for kids to get their monster mash on and a costume contest to top off the night.
The contest was inspired by former employee Margaret Harker who died in 2017.
“She was one of our employees here. And this was her favourite holiday," Shawanoo said.
The centre’s green space was packed with cars by 5:30 p.m. as families from all across Niagara came out in costume.
Kassandra Richardson, dressed as Ursula from "The Little Mermaid," was there with her kids Cyrus and Amethyst.
Amethyst was dressed as the villain Himiko Toga from the popular anime "My Hero Academia."
Amethyst doesn’t watch the show much but was happy to dress up as the character.
Cyrus was a dinosaur.
Between bites of pizza the kids said they were having fun.
While Richardson and her kids were eating their slices of pizza out on the gym floor, Ivy Mukiibi was enjoying the mash. The monster mash.
Staff at the centre staff had set up a small corner of the gym where kids could dance to the silly beat of Bobby Pickett’s classic smash, the "Monster Mash."
Ivy’s mom, Jennifer Mukiibi, was there in a purple witch hat watching her daughter bounce up and down to the music.
She said her daughter used to go to daycare at the centre, so she tries to make it out to as many of its events as possible.
Outside, as the sun was clouding over, kids of all ages were doing the rounds for trunk or treat.
Wanda Griffin, one of the centre’s board members, was there in a red blow-up suit with her daughter Gabs – who would have been dressed to impress, if not for the fake blood splattered on her pink dress and pooling in her shoes.
Natasha Bell was handing out candy to tiny versions of Spider-Man and other dressed-up kids.
“Seeing the kids in their costumes, people are so creative. It's pretty awesome,” she said while filling bags and sacks with candy.
The sun was getting low by the time the crowds started to thin.
Many stayed behind to compete in the costume contest, which was delayed until 6:40 p.m.
Evan Loree, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report