For two hours in the late afternoon and early evening of October 27, 2019, the Mauldin First Baptist Church’s parking lot at 150 South Main Street in Mauldin was transformed into a delightful landscape of play and fun as the church featured its annual Fall Festival.
According to Paula Southwell, Preschool and Children’s Pastor at Mauldin First Baptist, approximately 2500 folks attended this year’s event, with volunteers handing out some $3000 worth of candy.
This Fall Festival showcased thirty-eight creatively decorated “trunks”, two games from the church, and five amusements from ABC rental. Decorated trunks included varied themes such as Jurassic Park complete with “dinosaurs” to pet, Jonah and the whale, Noah’s ark, Superman, Spiderman, Clemson Tigers, Minions, a giant “gumball” machine, Wonka chocolate factory, a pretend campsite, Snoopy, Candyland, a safari, Mickey Mouse, Gideon Bibles stand, and, of course, a shiny red firetruck! A picturesque spot for capturing photographic memories graced the church’s main entrance while a praise band played music in the background. Outdoor patio seating provided a restful spot while a nearby vendor truck offered food items.
This year’s event was different in many ways. Ms. Southwell says that they changed the name from “Trunk or Treat” to “Fall Festival” to heighten interest within the community and to reflect an expanded vision and mission. The planners upped their game with the inclusion of amusements such as “Spinner” and “Vertical Rush.” They opened two entrances to improve traffic flow and eliminate long lines. Volunteers carried out regular “candy runs” ensuring no one ran out of supplies. The church opened up its patio and provided a nearby food truck so that families could take a breather and even sit down to eat in a quiet place if they so desired. The planners added five more decorated trunks over last year’s venue. Live music provided by the church’s praise band, another addition for this year, enhanced the mood, relaxed the pace, and encouraged a celebratory atmosphere.
An exciting Fall Festival like this does not just happen. Ms. Southwell estimated that more than 70 dedicated volunteers brought the annual event to life. She especially acknowledged the creative talents of Laura Colson who hosted three trunks, offered decorations to anyone wanting to participate, contacted volunteers, and provided extensive organizational assistance.
Ms. Southwell began planning the event during the last week of September and Ms. Colson started sketching out trunk designs way back in August. In the weeks prior to the festival, Mauldin First Baptist attendees donated and collected a fantastic amount of candy. On-site musicians required extensive sound equipment and support, provided by A1 Audio through church member Roger Brown.
One thing could not be controlled though. Weather predictions going into that weekend included heavy rains and gusty winds right through Sunday evening. Yet, as Rev. Wade Leonard, Mauldin First Baptist’s Senior Pastor, pointed out during morning worship on October 27th, “The showers and the rain have come and now it’s moved off and clear skies are coming. It should be a great night!” Thankfully, calm and clear skies did meet those who came out between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. for a fun-filled evening.
One cannot help but ask why a congregation would go to all this effort. Ms. Southwell says, “Mauldin First Baptist’s mission is to love, share, serve, and make disciples. We offer this event to love on our community. It is a safe, inexpensive, and fun evening for families.” Rev. Wade Leonard called it “a chance to share the love of Jesus,” while Pruette Plemens, Worship Arts Pastor at Mauldin First Baptist Church and one of the musicians playing that evening, remarked that there was a great spirit in the volunteers and attendees.
It was a great night!