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Get your 'eek!' on: Area Halloween happenings promise fun and light frights for the whole family

Multiple businesses and community groups, like Doherty Staffing, pictured here at last year's event, take part in United Community Bank's annual Trunk-or-Treat events in Perham and Frazee. Submitted Photo1 / 3
Pumpkin carving at last year's Ottertail Pumpkin Festival. Perham Focus File Photo2 / 3
A costume contest will take place again at this year's Ottertail Pumpkin Festival. Perham Focus File Photo3 / 3

Local communities are making it frighteningly easy to scare up a little Halloween fun this year. Several family-friendly spooktacular events are happening in Perham, New York Mills and Ottertail over the next couple weeks.

The fun starts this Saturday, Oct. 21 in Ottertail, with the Ottertail Pumpkin Festival.

Starting at 11 a.m. and running until 2 p.m., this annual festival will be jam-packed with music, contests, food and activities for all ages. Everything will take place in downtown Ottertail, with many events held in or around The Williams Company Store.

Many popular events from past pumpkin festivals will be back this year, including an ugly pumpkin contest, chili cook-off, pumpkin carving contest and more.

Kiddie train rides, face painting, pictures with Bigfoot, a pie-throwing contest and other kids games will be ongoing throughout the afternoon. Grilled brats, hot dogs, chips, baked goods, apple cider and other beverages will be served. Live music will be provided by The Original Castaways.

A kiddie parade, featuring kids in their Halloween costumes, will start at 11:15 a.m. (registration starts at 11).

Also starting at 11 a.m. will be the Ugliest Pumpkin/Gourd Contest. Pumpkin growers of all skill levels, amateur to seasoned, may bring their own home-grown entries to show. Festival-goers will vote on their favorites (or their least favorites, as it may be), and the one dubbed "ugliest" will be announced at 2 p.m. Local growers are also encouraged to bring their biggest pumpkins to display.

Winners of the Chili Cook-Off, Pumpkin Carving Contest and Family Costume Contest will also be announced at 2 p.m., and prizes will be awarded. The cook-off will take place inside The Williams Company Store. Pumpkin carving will be going on outside, behind the store, for as long as pumpkin supplies last. Free will donations will be accepted for the pumpkins.

In addition to contest prizes, one lucky girl and one lucky boy will each win a new bike through a sign-up prize giveaway.

The festival is organized by Ottertail area business owners, community members, the Ottertail Lions Club and United Way of Otter Tail County. Proceeds will go to the local United Way, Children's Services Association and Ottertail community events.

The following weekend, New York Mills will play host to three Halloween happenings.

All weekend long, Oct. 27-29, the New York Mills VFW Post 3289 will offer Haunted Trail Rides at the club's building off of U.S. Highway 10. Rides will start at the back garage of the VFW.

All ages are welcome to partake for a $10 fee, with proceeds going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Veterans Memorial Maintenance Fund.

The family-friendly rides will be offered Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 7-11 p.m. Hot chocolate will be served.

For more information, call the VFW at 218-385-3510 or find the club on Facebook at VFW Post 3289.

On Saturday, Oct. 28, the Cultural Center in New York Mills will host its annual Free Kids' Halloween Party from 3-5 p.m.

For the first hour, from 3-4 p.m., Impressions by Sarah Photography will be taking free Halloween photos of kids on the second floor of the center. For the full two hours, games, snacks, and art activities tailored to children ages 10 and under will be available. Pumpkin and cookie decorating will be offered as long as supplies last.

The event is free to attend and family-friendly. Parents are welcome to attend with any children, but children under eight years of age must be accompanied by an adult. Costumes are encouraged, but not required.

The Free Kids' Halloween Party is sponsored by the New York Mills Civic and Commerce Association. For more information, call the Cultural Center at 218-385-3339 or visit

After the party at the center wraps up, children of school age (kindergarten through 12th grade) can enjoy some discounted bowling at Mills Lanes and Lucky Strike Grill. All kids can play for $2, and get free shoe rentals, from 5-9 p.m. Saturday. Mills Lanes may be reached at 218-385-3691.

In Perham on Friday, Oct. 27, Heart of the Lakes Elementary School will host a Spooky Spooktacular "spookghetti dinner and glow dance" for kids in grades preschool through six and their parents. Dinner will be served from 5-6:15 p.m., with a costume grand march and the dance following until 7:30 p.m.

Costumes are optional, and must be non-violent. A $5 entry fee covers the cost of dinner, the dance, and a glow necklace and bracelets. Milkshakes will be available for $1. A photo booth and games will be on site. Dinner includes spaghetti, garlic bread stick, veggies, a cookie and "witches brew" (punch).

Proceeds will go to the Heart of the Lakes Elementary preschool playground and Empowering Kids Perham (formerly Bright Futures) scholarship program.

Then, on the big day, Halloween, United Community Bank will host Trunk-or-Treat events at its Perham and Frazee branches. From 6-7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 31, local businesses and organizations will be offering candy and other treats out the trunks of vehicles in both UCB bank parking lots.

It'll be the third year in a row that the event has been held in Perham, the second for Frazee.

"It's grown every year," said UCB's Nikki Thompson, an organizer of the Trunk-or-Treats. "Last year, we had close to 1,000 kids (in Perham), and that's what we're planning for again this year. We're excited to be hosting it again. It's really fun."

As of Monday, multiple businesses had already signed up to take part in the events, and more were still expected to join in. Businesses or community groups still wishing to participate should contact UCB by Friday, Oct. 27.

The Perham UCB is located at 301 West Main Street; the Frazee branch is at 122 West Main Street.

Thompson said Kim J Photography will be taking photos of kids in their costumes at the Perham event. There is no charge to have photos taken.

Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson joined the Detroit Lakes Tribune as a reporter and magazine editor in November 2017 after several years of writing and editing at the Perham Focus. She lives in Detroit Lakes with her husband, Dan, their 4-year-old son and toddler daughter, and their yellow Lab.

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