As temperatures wane and fall progresses in South Mississippi, students at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Jackson County Campus are winding down from the excitement that the annual JC Fall Festival brings.
On the night before Halloween, over 2,000 residents of the Gulf Coast attended the Fall Festival which was held in the gym at the MGCCC campus in Gautier. In the past, the festival has always been held outside, however, due to the rainy weather, JC Student Life Coordinator Brandi Martino made the call to move the event inside.
“The main purpose behind our Fall Festival is to provide safe trick or treating for our Jackson County Community,” Martino explained, “it originated as just a Trunk or Treat in 2012 and now it has evolved into what it is today, serving over 3,000 people.”
The JC Fall Festival is organized mainly by Martino, along with the help of the Student Government Association. Planning for the event begins in July each year, taking months to get everything in order for one night of fun community engagement. Other clubs and organizations participate in the Fall Festival by setting up a vendor booth and selling food or drinks to attendees or volunteering to work some of the activities.
Students are able to utilize these volunteer hours by putting them on their resumes and scholarship applications. Other activities at the Fall Festival include face painting, arts and crafts, games, and even selfie stations. Due to the event being held inside this year and having limited space, many of the usual activities were not able to happen.
Clubs may also participate by volunteering to decorate and work trunks for the Trunk or Treat portion of the event. Each year, the clubs compete for the title of “best trunk,” which can all range from visual aids to interactive performances. This year, the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society claimed first place with their theme of “Toy Story.”
Nicole Sallis, honorary member of Phi Theta Kappa, took on the role of leading officers and members in decorating the Toy Story themed trunk. “We polled our members by email to decide on what theme to choose and the poll revealed that Toy Story was their favorite.”
Sallis said that members and officers alike participated in building the decorations and started about a month out. “We were on a great path when about two days before the event we were told impending weather has forced the event to be moved inside. That was when the team really kicked into overdrive and we had to scratch our original design and practically create a brand-new trunk.”
Despite the undesirable weather and the chaos that it brought, this year’s Fall Festival was a huge success and families and friends of the community were still able to come together and participate in safe trick or treating.
Looking back on the Festival, Martino can finally laugh about the hoops that she had to jump through to ensure the success of the event, and she leaves the 2019 Fall Festival with one statement: “It is very important to always have a rain plan.”