As the mother of six children, I am always looking for fun and FREE things to do throughout the year. Fall seems to be a great time for the fun and free activities with fall festivals, harvest celebrations and Halloween activities. This is the first year I have been a mother in Knoxville, Tennessee. This is my second time living in the city, the first as a graduate student at UT. We moved back here this summer in search of greener pastures and have found them to be greener indeed!
Back to Halloween here in Knoxville, this year Halloween was on a Monday, which was a definite advantage to extending the celebration. There was certainly no shortage of fun things to do in Knoxville this Harvest season. There are numerous fall fests, haunted places, corn mazes, trunk/trick or treating, special celebrations at the zoo, Dollywood, museums, etc…. I can tell you that we didn’t hit all the celebrations, but we made our rounds to seven different activities between Wednesday, the 26th and Monday the 31st.
Keep in mind that I was looking for free, but next year, with experience, knowledge and a chance to budget properly, I want to add a couple of the events that may cost a bit, but are still reasonable for a family, like Boo at the Zoo.
The first of the seven was Second Presbyterian’s Fall Fest which is held on the last Wednesday in October. One of my children exclaimed on the way home “This was the best Fall Fest ever!” Beside the fact that they all came home with a bag of candy which could only be described as overflowing, they also won a fish! The fish came complete with a little mini tank and food. The good people of Second Presbyterian must’ve been to the carnival before and won a fish that promptly died when we got it home, so I really appreciated the extra thought that went into the prize. But there was more than trunk or treating and door prizes – there were lots and lots of fun games to play, miniature pumpkins to paint, a cake walk, costume competition and all around fun and festive atmosphere. They even gave away a grand prize of a free flight over Knoxville! The kids went away very happy, faces painted, with their new pet in tow.
The second of the celebrations was the Harvest Fest at the kids school – Rocky Hill Elementary on Friday night. Unfortunately, it rained the entire day, which I am sure put a damper on the execution of the event, but the Rocky Hill Elementary School PTO did a great job putting on a fantastic event. There were games and a really great DJ who had the kids dancing and enjoying themselves in the gym. As we walked through the hallway, there were decorated pumpkins – the kids really loved being able to show me which ones their classes had made. They especially loved the Angry Birds and I loved the one that was decorated as a space ship and there were little pumpkins around it decorated as aliens. There was also a free meal – Knology and Pilot and please forgive me for not knowing the other sponsors, provided hot dogs and chips and hot chocolate for free. With a large family, any savings on the food budget is always greatly appreciated.
But since I have children who are in elementary, middle AND high school, we had to leave Rocky Hill early to check out another fall fest which was by Bearden Middle School at West Hills Presbyterian. I love these Fall Fests, each one of them always has something unique that sets them apart from the others, for me, the West Hills Fall Fest included crafts. As an artist, I love doing crafts with my kids and at this one, we got to make beaded necklaces with their names on it. The festival may have been designed to be outdoors, but they put it all in their gym and it was great. They had a huge amount of games – the kids especially loved the basketball shooting game. There were more free hot dogs, chips, soda and homemade cookies. By the end of Friday, we went home full with another huge bag of candy, some homemade jewelry and anticipation of what would come next. Oh and my youngest daughter won the candy guessing contest.
Saturday was the day we had planned to go to the Boo at the Zoo, but time constraints and soccer games and soggy weather worked against us, so we just enjoyed a day at home as we knew that there were festivals on the schedule for Sunday and Monday was the big day!
Sunday’s festivals were close to home – and there were many to chose from, but we chose to stick to the ones closest to home – St. Mark’s United Methodist hosted a trunk or treat. I wasn’t able to attend this with the younger children, as our oldest daughter was being inducted into Top Teens of America at that time, but the report from my husband was that “They had chili dogs!!! With REAL sauce and soft, Sara Lee buns! and chopped onions, not the re-hydrated kind.” As many of you know husband talk, that sounds like a a winner to me.
The other Fall Fest that day was at Rocky Hill Baptist – which is the church that sponsors the Good News Club that my children attend weekly after school. Again, all fests have generally the same things, but as I mentioned, the things that they have that set them apart are well worth the trip to check them out. At Rocky Hill Baptist, it was the homemade caramel apples. These apples were juicy and delicious, the caramel fresh and soft. I saw more adults with the look of childlike pleasure on their faces while eating these apples with apple juice dripping down their chin. And did I mention the popcorn ? It was delicious – I didn’t try any until I got home and then I could’ve kicked myself for not grabbing another bag! In the middle of the trunk or treating, there was a magic show.
As I said, it always amazes me how everyone can have their own little extra special things that make them different from the other festivals. Again, at the end of the day, the kids had happy faces, hot chocolate with mini marshmallows, full stomachs and a bag full of candy. And yes, you are counting, that is now five free meals for a family of eight!
And we haven’t even made it to Halloween yet! I was starting to feel like I was in New Orleans for Mardi Gras – even though Fat Tuesday is only one day, the celebration lasts all week long – so it was here in Knoxville for Halloween.
Monday finally arrived and I wondered how on earth can they get MORE candy? But tonight was the big night….
We went to the event at the Knoxville Coliseum hosted by the Knoxville Police Department first while we were waiting for Trick or Treat to start. There were long lines, but they moved pretty fast and there was a ton of things to do. Local businesses had booths where they had games and candy, there were door prizes if you could remember to look at your ticket to see if you won and even cotton candy. My kids love to play games and this was the spot for them to do this. They had balloon swords and gave away soda and water. King Julian and Alex the lion of Madagascar were there and even our oldest got her picture taken with them!
This event was well organized and a lot of fun. We stuck around for about an hour, and as it was getting dark, we headed to one of our friends neighborhood to trick or treat.
We live out in the Northshore area and went to one of the enclosed neighborhoods which was safe and fun. Many houses had the lights on and gave out lots of candy. The parents of the neighborhood patrolled on bikes to keep things safe – it was a very nice scene.
And at the end of the night, all the kids went home happy and tired with a huge bag full of candy.
At the end of the week, I am still picking up wrappers, as I am sure I will be for a while now – when I say that they got candy over the course of these six days, they got CANDY – they shared it at school, with me and my husband, traded it and even sent some to a soldier in Afghanistan and still have a ton left.
But more than just the candy – we had a good time exploring our new city together.
Next year Halloween is on a Wednesday (since it’s leap year) so will that add two more days of Fall Festivities? We shall see…. but for now, we are looking forward to the holiday season here in Knoxville – as I was driving down Gay Street yesterday, they were putting up the Christmas tree – can’t wait to see the decorations and enjoy theses festivities. We’ll keep you posted.