SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — As COVID-19 continues to make life difficult, the community continues to come together to make sure special events can still be celebrated. SPAC hosted a two night Spooktacular drive-through trick-or-treat event so that community children could have a fun and safe Halloween experience.
The event was planned and executed by Mazzone Hospitality, the catering company that contracts with SPAC and operates on the property. General Manager Lindsey Ruoff wanted to find a way for kids to have a trick-or-treat experience while staying safe. She came up with the idea of a drive-through event and invented a contraption to deliver candy while maintaining social distancing.
Ruoff also wanted to come up with a way to support SPAC, who had a very hard year with the entire performance season being canceled due to the pandemic. Proceeds from the Spooktacular went directly to SPAC.
“I’ve worked in this building for twelve years, so it’s definitely a part of me,” she said.
The event sold out on both nights, which meant 500 cars came through SPAC on each night and many thousands of pieces of candy were handed out. As cars drove through the grounds, they stopped at each of thirteen stations where representatives from different local organizations and businesses would use Ruoff’s contraption to make a contact-free candy delivery to the children inside each vehicle.
All participants were encouraged to wear costumes, and many children brought their own trick-or-treat containers. Mazzone provided bags for those that needed them.
The event seemed to go smoothly, with cars driving slowly through the grounds in a steady stream and pausing at each station to get candy delivered through open windows with the use of Ruoff’s contraptions. The spooky sound effects playing over the PA system and the decorations covering the grounds added to the event’s atmosphere.
The first stop on the tour was the NYRA table, where the famous racetrack canoe was set up and filled with over 12,000 pieces of candy. As part of its yearly tradition, the canoe was painted with the silk pattern of this year’s winner of the Travers, the local favorite Tiz The Law. The canoe normally sits in the racetrack’s infield, but was brought to SPAC specially for the Spooktacular.
“The track is the biggest flare of Saratoga, so to have NYRA involved is really important,” said Sean Willcoxon, vice president of Mazzone Hospitality.
Other stops on the Spooktacular included tables hosted by Siena College, Ed Lewi Associates, the Salvation Army, Stewart’s Shops, Homemade Theater, Calabr Apparel, 1st National of Scotia, Truly Great Promo Products, State Farm representative Mackenzie Frederick, and Mazzone Hospitality.
Every sponsor was happy to be there, giving back to the community and getting into the spirit of the holiday. There were many smiling faces, lots of praise for costumes, and calls of “Happy Halloween!” throughout each night.
“We’re proud to join Mazzone Hospitality and SPAC to spearhead this first-ever event,” said Mark Bardack with Ed Lewi Associates. “It’s a phenomenal alternative for kids to still have fun and trick-or-treat. There’s lots of locally based companies giving tremendous support. Plus, what’s more beautiful than traveling through SPAC?”
Each trick or treat station was equipped with propane warmers to keep away the night chill. Station volunteers had hot beverages available to them courtesy of Mazzone Hospitality. Each station was equipped with two of Ruoff’s candy delivery contraptions, which were a universal hit with volunteers.
“The contraptions are perfect. They’re working well and they’re great for social distancing,” said Katie Harrison, working at the Siena College table. Harrison is a senior and looks forward to graduating in the spring. Together with mascot Bernie the Saint Bernard, she handed out lots of candy and wished everyone a happy Halloween.
“It’s been great so far,” she said. “The kids seem to be having a lot of fun.”
“It’s a pretty great event,” agreed Lt. Bree Barker with the Salvation Army. “I think it could continue next year, COVID or not.”
Eric Rudy, with Homemade Theater, agreed that the event would be a wonderful idea to repeat in years to come.
“This is much more family-friendly – and it’s fun for us too!” he said.
Over at the table for Truly Great Promo Products, company owner Cathy French was enjoying using her contraption.
“I want one of these to use at home!” she said. “They should definitely do this again next year. It’s such a wonderful event. When things like this [the pandemic] happen, people really get creative.”
Mackenzie Frederick was in her element as she and her husband, Josh, passed out candy in coordinated skeleton costumes. Frederick was also doing additional charity work of her own. Each packet of candy she passed out had a note attached encouraging families to contact her for a free quote. For every quote she gives, she is donating $5 to STRIDE.
“I’m doing this for myself – I love handing out candy to trick or treaters!” Frederick exclaimed. “We’re having a lot of fun. I think it’s a really creative way to work with what we’ve got. And Mazzone made it so easy.”
At the Mazzone Hospitality station, the last stop on the Spooktacular, two of the workers were dressed in Harry Potter costumes and were getting lots of recognition from trick-or-treaters. They were having a good time and glad to be part of the event.
“It’s funny how the kids are so used to it,” commented Taylor Ravreby, who was dressed as an Olympic skier. “They’re not even phased by how this is the new norm.”
“We’re absolutely having fun!” said Rose Martin, dressed as a Hufflepuff wizard. “Lindsey has come up with such a great event. She put so much work into this.”
Ruoff was glad to hear her contraptions were working and that everyone was enjoying themselves. When asked about making the Spooktacular a repeat event, she said it could definitely be done.
“I think this could be reshaped for next year, depending on the situation,” she said. “I’m glad everyone is having a good time.”