'Practicing for Halloween': Treats in Town a fun dress rehearsal for early trick-or-treating

Mahomet kicked off the first of its Halloween festivities with Mahomet Parents Network's Treats in Town Saturday. The event had businesses in the Commercial Drive, Eastwood Commons, Main Street and Oak Street areas opening their doors to trick-or-treaters and their families.

"It's kind of like a walk through for trick-or-treating," Christopher Whelchel of Mahomet said.

Whelchel brought his children, Elias, 4, and Kenley, 2, who were dressed as Star Wars' Kylo Ren and a butterfly, respectively.

"They like going to each business and getting candy," Whelchel added.

He also enjoyed watching the community, especially local businesses, come together to support events like Treats in Town.

"It definitely brings the community together," Whelchel added.

Tim and Taylor Yardley couldn't agree more, sharing that Treats in Town was a good excuse for them to check out downtown Mahomet.

"We just moved out here in January from Savoy so just being able to come out and have an intentional reason to come see the stores is not something we would normally do, especially with young kids, so there's a lot of exposure there," Taylor Yardley said.

Along their trick-or-treating route, Tim Yardley said he even discovered Mahomet's Russell Park, an alley currently decorated with orange and purple light strings that provides a green space in the midst of downtown.

The couple's favorite part of the event was simply bonding with daughters Emilia, 4, who dressed as Violet from 'The Incredibles,' and Adelynn, 2, who came decked out as Skye from "Paw Patrol."

"This is my only opportunity to do Halloween with them," Tim Yardley explained.

He is scheduled to be out of town on Wednesday, so the Yardleys took advantage of the event for seasonal family fun.

Their favorite part?

"The candy!" Emilia Yardley said in excitement.

Jason and Liz Kelm also made Saturday a family-fun activity, trick-or-treating with sons Henry, 6, who was dressed as "the best" Chicago Cubs baseball player, Anthony Rizzo, and Will 3, who came as Frankenstein.

As for the costumes, Liz Kelm joked that her sons had "their own ideas."

"Frankenstein the monster was in a book we've been reading a lot, and the Cubs have just been on the brain," she said.

The boys stopped at Lucky Moon Pies and More, where they received cookies as treats.

"They're really just excited to be in their costumes and talking about the best Cubs player and practicing for Halloween."

Also feeling the Halloween spirit were Sean and Denise Fonner of Champaign. The couple, along with sons Quinn, 9, and Zane 2, came decked out in a family costume as the characters from "The Nightmare Before Christmas."

"We do a theme every year, and this time we decided since it's the 25th anniversary of "The Nightmare Before Christmas" that we'd do that one," Sean Fonner said.

All of the costumes are homemade, taking several weeks for each one.

"This one took about two weeks," Sean Fonner said pointing to his costume as Oogie Boogie. "Mostly it was I ran out of supplies and I had to stop to go get more. His (Quinn's Jack Skellington costume) was about the same amount of time, but it was drying time because it's made out of papier-mache."

Denise Fonner typically dresses head to toe as character Sally, but decided to forgo the nearly two hours' worth of time it takes to do the makeup for the first Halloween outing in the costumes.

Son Zane Fonner came dressed as Jack Skellington's dog, Zero.

Jeffrey Martin, 7, of Mahomet had hopes of coming in an inflatable dinosaur costume, but "it wouldn't fit in the car," mom Christy Martin joked.

He settled for a Lego Batman costume instead, but that didn't put a damper on his Halloween spirit.

His favorite part?

"Getting the candy!" he said.

"I think it's a really great event," Christy Martin said.

"We've been long-term residents here, and Mahomet always had this very family-centered sense to it," she added. "I think it's a really good idea. It helps you just to get out, and the businesses are supporting the families so we wanted to get out and support the businesses. It's just a really good, wholesome activity."

Event organizer Tara Allen said Treats in Town started when she took family members to a similar event in Champaign's downtown 10 years ago."They had a great time," she said. "When we moved to Mahomet, I thought the little jaunt works for our little kids better than Trunk or Treat."

Allen said she often finds events interfering with her little one's nap times, so she decided to create an event of her own to allow the youngest of trick-or-treaters an opportunity to enjoy and partake in the fall festivities.

On Saturday, Allen said she "enjoyed everything like every other mom did."

"It was so awesome to pull up in the parking lot at the Mahomet rec center and it already had cars in it and little kids going inside," she said.

What impressed Allen the most was the increase in attendance.

"I would guess there were 300 people who came," she said.

A month before the event, Allen alone called the 33 participating businesses to see if they would be interested in opening their doors to trick-or-treaters.

"I want to express how very grateful I am for the participation of the local business," she said. "I often find myself thinking, 'I love Mahomet' while organizing MPN events because the people of the community make my job so easy. The people behind the storefronts that act as treat stops are eager and enthusiastic, which makes the event all the more fun."

As for next year, Allen hopes to continue to grow the event and has considered even adding a map to make stops at area locations that much easier.

"I think it really accentuates this sense of community," Allen said. "Mahomet is the perfect place for it because it reinforces the small-town feel. I love the enthusiasm of the local business owners."

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