Kids walked the trail loop at Civic Center Park collecting candy and playing games at each stop during the second annual Pumpkin Walk Oct. 25. After getting candy, trick-or-treaters got to make giant bubbles at one stop.

Kids walked the trail loop at Civic Center Park collecting candy and playing games at each stop during the second annual Pumpkin Walk Oct. 25. After getting candy, trick-or-treaters got to make giant bubbles at one stop.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Pumpkin Walk continues Madison Heights trend of community events amid pandemic

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published November 6, 2020


MADISON HEIGHTS — With coronavirus cases spiking across the country, the resident-led Madison Heights Arts Board has been looking for ways to provide safe fun during a time of pandemic.

Two recent examples of community events include Trail Tunes — a strolling music festival that made its debut Oct. 3 on the park loop at Civic Center Park — and the Pumpkin Walk, also at Civic Center Park, which celebrated its second year Oct. 25 with activities and a special appearance by the newly painted Flying Castle Bicycle Bookery — a book cabinet mounted on a bicycle that travels between cities delivering donated books to children.

The inaugural Trail Tunes was declared a success by city officials in a council proclamation Oct. 12, citing strong attendance by more than 500 people. There were 15 musicians performing more than 300 songs, and a variety of kids crafts and games to play as well at fun zones run by the Madison District Public Schools PTO, the Escape Room Zone Madison Heights, the Madison Heights Goodfellows and Red Oaks Church. Food and drink were provided by three food trucks: The Grilled Wrap, Motor City Sweet Treats, and The Salt & Sugar Co.

In addition, there were pop-up sales by the Arts Board, the Environmental Citizens Committee’s Bloom Project and the Friends of the Madison Heights Library that helped raise more than $2,000 for their programming. The Madison Heights Food Pantry collected nonperishables and financial donations to help provide holiday dinners for 150 families.

Trail Tunes itself was funded 100% by donations and put together with volunteer sweat equity. Groups that provided funding and volunteers include Alternative Rx, Giffels Webster, Clark’s Fabrication and Design, Interstate Auto Care and Woodpile BBQ.

All of this was done while taking care to observe social distancing guidelines, with the event taking place outdoors with abundant spacing between musical acts.

The Arts Board’s music festival planning committee included Madison Heights City Councilman Mark Bliss, along with board members Vita Palazzolo, Steve Dombroski and Jason Theodoroff.

The Pumpkin Walk, meanwhile, featured more than 350 participants and more than 50 residents and community group members who provided games for them to play, crafts for them to make and treats for them to collect.

The Arts Board gave special thanks to Diane Hartwell, Kristi Terry, and Jason and Julie Jones, as well as the Madison Heights Active Adult Center, the Madison Heights Public Library, the Madison Heights Fire Department, the Madison Heights Police Reserves, the Madison Heights Community Coalition, the Madison Heights Food Pantry, the Flying Castle Bicycle Bookery, Ghostbusters Detroit and Biggby Coffee.

Laurie Geralds served as the Arts Board Pumpkin Walk chair.

“Last year’s inaugural Pumpkin Walk was inspired by Hallmark movies. It was a nice, early event (in 2019) with about half the community involvement and about 75 attendees,” Geralds said. “Brainstorming afterward inspired changes for this year, including an increase in activities and community involvement.”

She noted that many of the pumpkins on display last year came from classes that were unable to meet face to face this year.

“Our goal is to focus on more involvement next year,” Geralds said. “Some residents brought pumpkins with them for their stations and added decorations for festive treat tables.”

The Pumpkin Walk served as a kickoff for the Arts Board’s first interactive sidewalk mural, painted by resident Eve Sandoval. Next to it were bubble buckets that made huge bubbles, an idea inspired by another artist, Jennifer Ramirez, who painted the shelter building at Civic Center Park and the concessions stand at Rosie’s Park.

The Madison Heights Public Library had a potion-themed table where guests could create lemonade “potions.” There were activities such as a bean bag toss, a ball toss, a pool noodle spear toss provided by Kristi Terry, a dinosaur egg hunt by Jason and Julie Jones, a “Wheel of Fortune” game, and Halloween-themed milk jug designs with tea lights provided by the Madison Elementary School PTO.

There were treat stations with treats on tables or in containers. Diane Hartwell provided treat bags, and the Madison Heights Active Adult Center handed out treat bags. The Madison Heights Police Reserves handed out candy, as did the Madison Heights Fire Department, passing out candy and firefighter hats. The Madison Heights Community Coalition passed out treats, as well as Halloween jewelry and other small gifts.

The Flying Castle Bicycle Bookery gave away 75 books, and Ghostbusters Detroit brought two vehicles and a 13-foot-tall Stay Puft Marshmallow Man blow-up for photo ops. Some exhibits were purely for a good cause, with the Madison Heights Food Pantry collecting nonperishable and financial donations that will provide holiday dinners for local families. Biggby Coffee provided coffee and hot chocolate.

The four winners of the city’s Scarecrow Contest were also announced by Kimberly Heisler, the executive director of the Madison Heights Community Coalition, with winning families each receiving a $50 Amazon gift card.

Throughout it all, attendees followed safety precautions to keep their community safe.

“People were really great about wearing masks at both events and for distancing whenever possible,” Geralds said, adding that some elements also involved sign-up times to spread out crowds.

She said that the recent success of Trail Tunes and the Pumpkin Walk has been encouraging.

“As always, the Arts Board has lots of exciting ideas in discussion,” Geralds said. “We look forward to regrouping to develop our 2021 plans.”

Madison Heights Mayor Roslyn Grafstein said that when schools and many city businesses shut down, the city looked at nonessential programs and made the hard decision to cancel them until the end of the year. Since then, the city has been trying to find ways to hold what events it can.

“It was heartbreaking not having our Memorial Day Parade or Festival in the Park. But as we have all been finding our way over these last months, the Arts Board was able to plan and host these two socially distanced events with little assistance from the city,” Grafstein said. “COVID is still a concern, but these two events have shown that we can responsibly host safe outside programs.”  

Amber Platzke, the chair of the Arts Board, said there are many passionate people on the Arts Board who helped make it happen.

“Our mission as a board has been to support the arts and make it accessible to everyone in our community, and these events really knocked it out of the park,” Platzke said. “The amount of people who gave their time and talents was incredible, and seeing hundreds of people come together to enjoy music, games, crafts and laughs was magical.”