Looking for a safe, family-friendly Halloween event? Through the end of October, Grand Traverse Area Children’s Garden is hosting a Spooky Halloween Decorating Contest between eight Northern Michigan nonprofits. Take a stroll in the Traverse City garden (free), vote for your favorite decorated area and enjoy fall color and autumn blooms.

We caught up with GTA Children’s Garden Executive Director Kimberly Conaghan for more details about the Northern Michigan event and how families can get involved with the garden.

1. What are the essential details: When, where and how can people access the children’s garden for the Spooky Halloween Decorating Contest?

Now through October 31, folks can access the Spooky Halloween Decorating Contest in the Walk-Through Garden of the GTA Children’s Garden, which is located directly behind the TADL Woodmere Branch between the “blue archways” anytime for free between dawn and dusk. Eight nonprofits have decorated a portion of the garden—Maritime Heritage Alliance, Northwest Food Coalition, Kids on the Go Traverse City, Friends of the TADL, TBAISD Farm to School, Pour For More, Boardman River Nature Center and GTA Children’s Garden—to compete for your votes. At each entrance and in each decorated portion of the garden there is a QR code linking to an online voting platform where you can vote for your favorite for only $1 per vote. At the end of the contest, the votes will be tallied and the most-voted-for organization will receive a $100 grand prize from Team Dakoske RE/MAX Bayshore. The web voting platform also has photos of each of the decorated areas, so if folks cannot make it out to the garden in-person, they can participate and vote completely virtually.

2. What are some of the decorations people will get to see?

It’s set up like a slightly haunted Halloween walk with a gardening twist, so you can see all things garden in the fall—beautiful mums, pumpkins and squash, ornamental corn and corn stalks, beautiful fall foliage, changing colors—and some spooky elements as well—ghosts, goblins, witches, pirates, bats, skeletons. Plus, it’s a really nice serene spot on Boardman Lake.

3. Is this your first year doing the event? Was it inspired by COVID-19; looking for ways to celebrate Halloween safely?

This is the first year doing the event! Halloween and fall is such a fun time and most children LOVE Halloween, but with the pandemic, most people are adjusting traditions. I also wanted to connect our space with others in the community and use the garden as a platform for awareness about these other amazing local nonprofits. When I was hired as the executive director in January, one of my goals was to connect the GTA Children’s Garden to an even broader audience and connect it to even more of the local community. It has been around since 1999 and is a beautiful space open for children of all ages (and adults, too!). I believe strongly in collaborative spirit, and that micro-scale donations can make a major impact in the community. Some people are really struggling, but if everyone who walked by could donate a dollar, it would be super impactful for all eight of these nonprofits.

4. What are some other activities/events hosted by the children’s garden, or ways for families to get involved?

Traditionally, we host children gardening classes and workshops in a different portion of our garden, the Children’s Learning Garden, which we converted to a food production garden for the year for donation. To date, GTA Children’s Garden has donated more than 850 pounds of produce directly to local families and to the Community Kitchen at the Salvation Army on Barlow Street. With the need for safe, outdoor activities, whether in a pandemic or not, one of my goals is to make the GTA Children’s Garden a space for people to enjoy all year round. Even in the winter, a garden never truly sleeps. We are taking our offerings day by day, so stay connected with us!

5. What’s the best way for people to stay connected?

Facebook or sign-up to receive our newsletter at childrensgardentc.org.

6. Is there anything else you want to share?

Even if you cannot donate for the contest, we hope everyone enjoys a little fall fun, learns more about the organizations participating, follows them and us on social media and stays safe! The voting platform for the Spooky Halloween Decorating Contest is https://tinyurl.com/ydxypmv4 and every vote will matter to all the nonprofits involved! We are accepting volunteers for 2021 to help manage and maintain the garden, no experience is necessary, and have virtual volunteer options available as well.

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