It’s 5:53 Wednesday evening in the quad outside Caldwell Hall and a fairly large number of McCallie boarding students and faculty members are readying for the annual Halloween Carnival, which is now but seven minutes away.
As Ryan Wadley, Dean of Residential Life, oversees close to 60 boarders furiously putting the final touches on numerous game stations – everything from the fishing booth to the football toss to the Zombie ball toss – he shouts with a smile, “This doesn’t mean you get candy!”
Perhaps not the students manning the 16 total stations where faculty children fifth grade or younger are hoping to fill their brightly colored buckets and plastic pumpkins with as much sweet stuff as possible. But Mr. Wadley’s warning doesn’t stop history teacher Duke Richey from grabbing a couple of handfuls.
“C’mon, it’s to hand out to the kids,” Mr. Richey says in defense of his bulging pockets. Asked later what his favorite candy is, he replies, “Starburst jelly beans. Very underrated.”
It would be hard to overrate the joy on the faces of all these children, most of them between the ages of 4 and 10. Then there’s Harper Wadley, now 12 and a sixth grader at GPS, who begged for one more year of candy collecting.
“I told her if she dressed up she could come one more time,” says her father Ryan.
So Harper came as her dad, wearing a Chicago Cubs necktie, a beard painted on her face and her dad’s McCallie ID badge pinned to her shirt.
“I love trick-or-treating,” says Harper, who also lists “Reese’s peanut butter cups” as her favorite treat.
Nearby stands seven-year-old Rivers McCallie, son of Sumner McCallie, the school’s Dean of Faculty and Curriculum. Rivers is disguised as a rattlesnake who loves Nerds candy. His favorite station is “Limbo” but it’s been replaced this year so his new favorite is the Super Mario Cart Race.
One of the most challenging stations would appear to be the Balance game, which are three balance beams connected to the back of a utility trailer that might typically haul lawn mower equipment. You’re supposed to successfully navigate all three beams to get your candy.
Senior Steven O’Neill put this one together “In about 15 minutes.” An attractive poster for the balance station hung nearby, apparently painted by an unknown artist. An RA in South Hutcheson, O’Neill wants to major in construction management at Auburn, which makes sense, since he hails from Fairhope, Ala.
“War Eagle!!!,” he yells, then discusses the job he works part-time at Wildwood Farm, cutting grass on the nearly 1,000-acre property that also counts as many as 150 head of cattle at a particular time.
Young Rivers McCallie has already mastered the balance station while Sellick Wallin, stylishly dressed as a werewolf and craving Sour Patch Kids, is about to. Adding to the atmosphere on this appropriately damp, gray, windy night, are classic Halloween tunes such as Ray Parker Jr.’s Ghostbusters theme song and “Time Warp” of Rocky Horror Picture Show fame.
Having worked the Carnival for two years, junior boarder Bobby Welsh says what he most enjoys is “connecting with the faculty, getting to know both sides of the teachers. Interacting with the kids is great, too.”
So does seeing the faculty in this environment change his view of them?
Welsh smiles and says, “That’s on a case by case basis.”
And his favorite costume he’s seen this night? “Mary Poppins.”
The Carnival was originally the brainchild of former faculty member Ed Snodgrass and his wife Linda more than two decades ago. It has grown and blossomed under freshman dorm head Bart Wallin and Wadley, even adding a much-appreciated hot cider and hot chocolate station for the older folks in the crowd.
Brie Wallin, a GPS sophomore, has experienced the Carnival as both a trick-or-treater and a worker.
“I like knowing everybody,” she says. “When I get older, I always want to come back for this. Working it is more fun than trick-or-treating.”
As Brie speaks, the Carnival portion of the evening in the Quad is about to give way to door-to-door trick-or-treating at various on-campus faculty residences under a rapidly darkening sky.
After adding to his stash at one home, eight-year-old Logan Winter, Administrative Assistant for Academics Rachel Winter’s son, holds up a Milky Way bar and professes it to be his favorite. As for his favorite part of the evening, he grins and says, “I get candy.”
A few minutes before that, Director of Development for Research and Engagement Amy Cloud asks her four-year-old daughter Shelby to describe the evening.
A wide smile crossing her face as she holds an overflowing bucket of candy, she needs but one word to answer, “Good”.
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