First one pumpkin rolled down Caroline Street. Then a little girl dressed as a black cat came chasing after. Then another pumpkin rolled by, followed by a little princess, and a third pumpkin, almost overtaking the second, followed by a tiny Spider-Man.
In a matter of seconds, a horde of shrieking young trick-or-treaters was chasing a dozen pumpkins as they picked up speed down Caroline Street.
The pumpkin races continued all day long and were one of the more popular activities at the 14th annual Fall Festival hosted by the Saratoga Springs Downtown Business Association.
Broadway and side streets were packed with families, most of them in costume, celebrating Halloween and the fall season as businesses handed out candy; magicians, musicians and jugglers performed on the street; and kids played games before the culminating Children’s Costume Parade at 3:30 p.m.
“We’re just having fun with the kids on Halloween,” said Kristan Wait of Saratoga Springs, whose kids had just rolled a couple of pumpkins down the street.
Wait was at the festival for the second year with family and friends, mostly for the candy. The crew included a Power Ranger, the Hulk, a crazy cat lady, YouTube star Miranda Sings, and a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Her son and daughter, ages 2 and 5, didn’t come away with any prizes in the pumpkin roll.
“They didn’t win,” Wait said. “They had fun, though.”
Most of the businesses on Broadway were handing out candy and offering special activities for kids, from face painting to pumpkin painting.
Outside Maestro’s at the Van Dam, employee Katie Reeves was dressed as a witch and energetically handing out candy to a perpetual line of children, her bowl kept full by helpers running a candy supply line.
“They all come in waves today,” she said, handing a few treats to a bear, Cookie Monster and a dinosaur. “I’m standing around for a minute, then I get bombarded. It’s great, though; it’s good to do this. It’s fun to be out here with the children.”
At the other end of Broadway, Tessa Murphy stood on the front porch of her apartment with a bowl full of candy. She was dressed as Wendy, and her boyfriend — who had made a trip to Price Chopper for a candy run — was Peter Pan. They were carving jack-o’-lanterns between stops by trick-or-treaters.
“I’m from New York City and I loved handing out candy as a kid,” said Murphy, a junior at Skidmore College. “We just thought it would be fun.”
She grew up with a mother who worked in costume design, she said, and caught the bug: designing and making her own costume has always been her favorite part of Halloween. She had plenty of costumes to scope out today. She was particularly impressed, she said, by parents who had built a cardboard airplane around their child’s stroller.
The event continued until 4 p.m., but Murphy said she wasn’t sure how long they’d be doling out treats.
“We’ll see how long we last,” she said, “how long the candy supplies last.”
A lot to do
In addition to the pumpkin rolling, the festival included a petting zoo and pony rides, balloon animals, photo booths, coffee sack races and a small circus performance.
Near a climbing wall, Christian Gonzalez relaxed with his family. They’ve been coming for years, he said.
He’s from New York City, he said, where he didn’t get to do things like apple picking and pumpkin carving when he was a kid.
“Everything’s very kid-friendly, and that’s probably my favorite part,” he said. “I really like the fall season. I feel like the fall season really brings everyone together as a family.”