As kids dressed in their favorite costumes flocked to the Mitchell Middle School parking lot Saturday evening, over 50 trunks full of candy helped get them into the spirit of Halloween.

For the past two decades, the Trunk or Treat event has been a community Halloween tradition. After the pandemic caused the event to be canceled last year, Saturday’s trunk or treat was a special one, as it marked the 20th annual celebration.

For Traci Moore, a Mitchell Middle School counselor who helps organize the event, seeing the smiles light up across the faces of the hundreds of kids and families making their rounds through the Middle School parking lot was a “much needed” return to Halloween normalcy.

Kids' faces light up on Saturday in the Mitchell Middle School parking lot during the 20th annual Trunk or Treat event after receiving a wands from the local Shrine club. (Sam Fosness / Republic)
Kids' faces light up on Saturday in the Mitchell Middle School parking lot during the 20th annual Trunk or Treat event after receiving a wands from the local Shrine club. (Sam Fosness / Republic)

“Everyone has been through a lot the past two years with COVID-19, and it’s just wonderful to be able to get back to this tradition today,” Moore said, while passing out candy in her macaroni and cheese costume.

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While the event started off as another safe alternative to street-side trick-or-treating, Moore has watched trunk or treat blossom into a communitywide Halloween tradition that offers much more than that.

Moore said she’s seen everything from new businesses using it as an opportunity to advertise to city officials building a stronger connection with the community. Considering the event draws over 1,000 kids each year, who are accompanied by parents or guardians, there is plenty of exposure to be had for nonprofit organizations and businesses.

“We have a lot of people put coupons for their businesses with the candy they pass out to advertise. It’s really cool to see how this event has evolved into something bigger,” Moore said. “And the Mitchell Fire Department is always great with the costumes they put on, which helps them connect with the community and kids in a special way.”

For many local nonprofit organizations, the pandemic hampered in-person fundraising efforts. But Moore said Saturday's Trunk or Treat provided an opportunity for some of the nonprofit groups to get back out in the community and continue in-person fundraising.

While each trunk that doles out candy must meet the safety requirements, they can also pass out other “kid-friendly” items to trunk or treaters. On Saturday, several groups took it up a notch for the 20th annual Trunk or Treat. The local Shrine club doled out toy swords and fairy wands, while Mabee Eye Clinic handed out sunglasses to the kids.

Members of the South Dakota National Guard dole out candy to kids dawning costumes on Saturday in front of the Mitchell Middle School during the 20th annual Trunk or Treat event. (Sam Fosness / Republic)
Members of the South Dakota National Guard dole out candy to kids dawning costumes on Saturday in front of the Mitchell Middle School during the 20th annual Trunk or Treat event. (Sam Fosness / Republic)

Trunk or Treat was formed by a student group called Unfiltered Reality, which educates fellow students about the dangers of tobacco, alcohol and drugs. The group has continued to grow and impact middle school and high school students.

Considering the risks that can come with street-side trick-or-treating such as marijuana-infused candy being passed out, which police have alerted parents and guardians to be aware of in some parts of the country, Moore, who is a leader of Unfiltered Reality, said Trunk or Treat provides a safe Halloween experience for all event-goers.

Over the years, it’s also grown into an area event, as families from small towns in the surrounding Mitchell area make it an annual tradition.

Roslita Garcia treks roughly 20 miles from her Woonsocket area home to take part in Mitchell’s Trunk or Treat.

For Garcia, the event offers a secure “truckload” of candy for her two children, who she said “absolutely love” the event.

“It’s great to know when you come here the kids are going to get truckloads of candy to take home,” she said, while making the rounds with her kids who were dressed as Marvel characters Hulk and Spider-Man. “When you go door-to-door trick or treating, you might not get some people who are home and have to go a few blocks until finding someone passing out candy. You don’t have the problem here, as you can see.”