Photo depicting a costumed individual handing out candy from a bright-green bowl.

No Tricks, All Treats: Community Organizations Are Bringing Something Sweet to South Seattle This Halloween

by Dominique Morales

(This article was originally published on Real Change and has been reprinted under an agreement.)

Trick-or-treating has become an almost guaranteed promise of candy on Halloween. With history dating back to the 16th century, this tradition has taken many forms throughout the years, with modern iterations usually entailing the sound of door knocks and the sight of costumed children. But for some communities in South Seattle, Halloween festivities have taken on a much different form from the door-to-door candy hopping.

One of these festivities is the Rainier Beach Boo Bash at the Beach. As the name implies, the event is centered on Rainier Beach; it was created by community activist Cindi Laws as a response to gun violence that pervaded Rainier Valley/Skyway and the Rainier Beach area. According to current “Boo Boss” Danielle Jackson, since its start in 2014, Boo Bash at the Beach has served thousands of kids and families with the goal of providing a free, safe and fun experience for Halloween. This goal has only become more imperative for Jackson, who noted the epidemic surrounding mental health and the rise of drugs like fentanyl infiltrating their communities.

“We must create safe and accessible spaces for families to come where they don’t have to worry about issues like that,” Jackson said.

Photo depicting two youth, one in a witch costume and one in a winged gargoyle costume, seated and waiting.
Two costumed children sit on one side of the stage as dancers set up to perform at Boo Bash at the Beach in 2022. (Photo: Danielle Jackson, courtesy of Real Change)

Jackson describes Boo Bash at the Beach as a “trick-or-treat wonderland” with, of course, trick-or-treating opportunities at every turn, plus an assortment of activities and entertainment from local groups. And while fun is at the heart of the event, it’s not all that Boo Bash at the Beach has to offer. The event has partnered with over a dozen different City and County governmental agencies, faith-based organizations, community groups, and local businesses to provide outreach, resources, and education. In the previous years, Safeway even provided flu and COVID-19 vaccinations.

“[It’s] just being able to give resources for those in need, that they can share with their circle of friends and family; making it accessible so that kids and families are being safe,” Jackson said.

Safety is a constant concern for Jackson and is ultimately what led her to make the decision to shift the location of Boo Bash at the Beach in recent years. Originally, the event was hosted in the parking lot of the Safeway located on Rainier Avenue South, but after noticing safety issues related to the store experiencing high volumes of traffic from shoppers, Jackson said it wasn’t sustainable to continue hosting Boo Bash at the Beach there.

“It was a traffic nightmare, on foot and in cars,” Jackson said.

Having a space that felt safe for families has always been Jackson’s goal, and so she leaned on the community to tell her what they felt was best.

“I did a survey with the community, and they were OK with moving it to the [Rainier Beach] community center. So, yeah, it wasn’t just a choice that I made, but it was a choice of the community and vendors as well,” Jackson said.

Photo depicting a youth playing a game involving tossing something into cups.
At the Bash, a child plays a game of skill to win prizes. (Photo: Danielle Jackson)

The switch to move Boo Bash at the Beach to the Rainier Beach Community Center and South Lake High School happened back in 2019, which is where the event will be hosted Oct. 29. Last year, Jackson said the event had over 3,000 attendees, and she expects even more this year. The turnout and positive reaction from the community has kept Jackson forging this labor of love.

“I haven’t seen a sad face leave that place. That’s why I keep doing this, because it’s a lot of work and it’s tiring,” Jackson said. “The hardest is getting the money to do this project, but when you see those babies and even adults — the adults are probably even as happy as the little kids. I mean, ʼcause there’s space for them to be a kid again, and they have a ball.”

This jubilant spirit is also carried on with other events in the South End like T’Challaween. Hosted in Beacon Hill by the South Seattle Emerald, T’Challaween’s main spectacle is a 1-mile costume parade. However, don’t be fooled: The event’s significance goes far beyond its parade route. T’Challaween started in 2020 as a direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, born out of an idea sparked in the dining room of Real Change’s very own development and communications manager Jessie McKenna and her mom (and Real Change’s new calendar writer) Marti McKenna.

“I brought it to Marcus (who was our executive director at the time) to see if we, as the Emerald, could take it on, and he gave us the green light,” Jessie McKenna said. “Everyone at the Emerald, as well as the community at large, really embraced it and made it what it is.”

The name and idea of T’Challaween is in dedication to the role of T’Challa, or the Black Panther, played by the late Chadwick Boseman. T’Challaween is a tribute to heroes: to those who inspire us and have set an example for how to be. The event, taking place this year on Oct. 28, serves as an opportunity for South Seattleites to come together safely to celebrate each other, all while providing local families, like Nerissa Deza’s, an opportunity to partake in some Halloween festivities.

“We always go to T’Challaween because that’s in our community. We really support that,” Deza said. “I love the fact that it’s accessible because streets are closed for children, families [and] pets. And kids are not having to go door-to-door — you got candies flying; you got candy chutes; that’s been a big hit for a lot of the neighborhoods as well.”

For moms like Adi Maxwell, who has three young kids, not only does T’Challaween check all the boxes when it comes to accessibility and safety, but it also lends an opportunity to foster connections.

“Every time I attend, I run into multiple neighbors, friends [and] kids who I haven’t seen in awhile and get to catch up with them,” Maxwell said. “This event fosters the deepening of those community relationships, [and] for kids, I think it is teaching them the importance and joy of being in community.”

And for parents like Deza, events like Boo Bash at the Beach and T’Challaween provide not only their kids but themselves with an opportunity to celebrate Halloween in a way past generations in Seattle haven’t historically gotten to.

“Because as a kid growing up here, my parents were immigrants. And so it was just like [trick-or-treating] in our neighborhood, right? Back then, there was no internet; there was no nothing,” Deza said. “So, gosh, when I was younger, I didn’t have that opportunity.”

Photo depicting two costumed individuals posing at their booth designed like Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.
A treat station at the Rainier Beach Boo Bash at the Beach in 2022 was decorated extensively to resemble Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. (Photo: Danielle Jackson, courtesy of Real Change)

The effort to make Halloween festivities more accessible and safe seems to be a shared goal with the city. To foster safer trick-or-treating and community-building festivities, the City of Seattle has been encouraging anyone who is interested to apply for a free permit to close their street to cars during the week of Halloween and Día de Muertos. According to Chris Miller, the Seattle Department of Transportation deputy press secretary, the City received 95 “Trick or Streets” permit requests as of Oct. 18.

And while it’s positively refreshing to see both community organizers and the City rising to the occasion, Jackson has heard and felt the feedback that this is the kind of energy we need all year round.

“[The kids] want me to do this all the time, like more than just the Boo Bash,” Jackson said.

“And we need to because we live in a community that is a majority families of poverty. For me, I want them to have the very best. I believe that they should have the same kind of resources that kids in Bellevue have.”

Dominique Morales, California born and raised, received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Graduating amid the COVID-19 pandemic, she continued her education pursuing her master’s in public policy, reigniting a lifelong passion for advocacy and speaking truth to power. She now resides in Seattle and uses her skill set to uplift and tell stories of all the rich and diverse communities of the city and its surrounding areas. Dominique is also the editor of Real Change News.

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