Church plans harvest festival

Published 8:55 pm Thursday, October 24, 2013

Southside Baptist Church invites one and all to a festival Oct. 31 serving as a safe alternative to trick-or-treating on Halloween.

Wayne Turner has been chairman of the church’s Harvest Festival since 1995 and says it started years before he took the reins.

“We have been doing this for probably 30 years,” Turner said. “It has grown a lot in the past 10 or 15 years.”

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The festival takes place in the church parking lot, 917 Carolina Road, from 6 to 8 p.m. “We have hay rides, pony rides, blow-up games, climbing walls — we have about 40 homemade games that are a lot of fun,” he said, adding that he made a lot of the games himself.

The event is free, including entry, parking and food. Hotdogs, chili, cupcakes and cakes will be on the menu, Turner said.

“We feed everybody that comes.”

Past installments of the festival have attracted as many as 2,700 folks, according to Turner.

“It started out just a bunch of children from our church and just a few in the neighborhood,” he said.

“Then it began to grow and more people came. The word has gotten around and we have people that come from as far away as Newport News and the Hampton area.”

The festival has a novel method of candy distribution: Children win it, Turner said, by playing the various games.

“In times past, we have given away 2,000 pounds of candy,” he said. “A lot of times people say, ‘We have literally given away a ton of candy,’ and that’s a figure of speech. But we really do.”

Turner’s wife Sandra Turner is in charge of the cakewalk, with plans to give away 175 cakes, pies, cookies and other such goodies.

There will also be prize drawing, Wayne Turner said, with a television as the major prize and four or so other prizes.

The festival also acts as a ministry to the general public, Turner said. It’s a safe alternative to trick-or-treating, he added.

“The society we live in today, sometimes it is not a safe thing to have children just going up and down the street,” he said.

“We try to just minister to the public and provide a safe environment and a good time. … If we come into contact with people not going to church anywhere, we might contact them and just invite them. There is no, ‘You are going to hell if you don’t join Southside.’”