For its ninth year, the South Bellevue Community Center (SBCC) is hosting Halloween on the Hill, an all-day holiday-themed event seeking to bring families together through a range of events. This year encompasses activities like a carnival, a pumpkin race and a zipline as well as more artistically oriented features, like a theater show and a movie screening.
“There’s a little something for everybody,” Jennifer Newton, the manager of the SBCC said. “It’s just such a great event.”
Halloween on the Hill dates back nearly a decade, to when the SBCC’s previous manger was looking to increase community engagement in the area through more event work. After looking at what some cities in the East Coast had been doing to better connect with residents, the center decided to try out for itself what’s now recognized as Halloween on the Hill. Originally, though, it merely included the now-traditional pumpkin race, where participants put their carved creation on wheels and compete.
“It’s definitely evolved,” Beau Stanford, the community services program coordinator at the SBCC and one of the event’s main organizers, said of Halloween on the Hill.
Though one of its elements — the “zip scare,” which is essentially a zipline course that runs through the surrounding wooded area — is available to the public on Oct. 18, 19 and 25, the event’s activities are otherwise confined to Oct. 26.
The day begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 10 p.m. There are two scheduled pumpkin-race periods — one from 10 a.m. to noon, the other from noon to 2 p.m. — which coincides with the carnival, which starts at 11 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m. Halloween on the Hill’s carnival includes games, inflatables, food and more. It’s capped off with an hour-long comedy show from the entertainer Alex Zerbe, which begins at 3 p.m.
“There are more pieces to the puzzle that I think have made it [Halloween on the Hill] an attraction to local residents,” Jill Rittenhouse, the SBCC’s community services recreation technician and a key event organizer for the last two years, said.
Bellevue Youth Theatre is then putting on a theater show — a piece called “Nevermore” — at 6:30 p.m., for $10.
“A lot of folks are coming out to watch their performance,” Rittenhouse said. “They do a unique performance every year. They spend a lot of time and effort doing that.”
This year, Halloween on the Hill is concluding with a screening of the Pixar movie “Coco.” It’s free to attend; popcorn is complementary.
Stanford noted that, by including several subevents at Halloween on the Hill, an opportunity is provided for parents with kids — and in many cases grandparents with grandkids — to bond.
“A lot of families have kids that are into their iPads or video games or what not,” he said. “But it’s fun to actually get parents and grandparents and kids and grandkids… to spend time together. I think it’s key for different generations to spend some time with each other.”
By Rittenhouse’s estimate, about 1,500 people attended last year’s event, showing that the program has “grown exponentially over the last three to five years.” But she added that it can sometimes be challenging finding sponsors and community participation, and that the size of the Eastside as a whole can make it difficult to stand out from other holiday programs.
“There is so much information out there and so many great events with Bellevue and the Eastside area and beyond,” Rittenhouse said. “There’s a lot of choices for families.”
Still, the event has proven increasingly popular, and this year has extensive support from the surrounding community. At Halloween on the Hill 2019, many of the volunteers are students from Sammamish High School and Newport High School; a nearby Nike Factory store is having some of its employees help out with the pumpkin races, for instance. Sponsors include Voya, Key Bank and Northwest TeamBuilding.
Despite some of the challenges, the efforts have come with rewards. To Rittenhouse, events like Halloween on the Hill are important to Bellevue and the surrounding area.
“It helps people feel a connection to their community,” she said. “The scope of our city and the area is so large, it’s almost overwhelming to folks. I think people are always looking for that community feeling. They want to feel like they belong; they want to feel like they don’t have to go too far. It’s important that you’re reaching out to your local community so they feel like ‘this is part of my world’ and that we’re really serving them.”
For more details about the event, go to its online booklet(https://en.calameo.com/read/0050715996a4ebd99907f).