BROOKINGS – Halloween is known for spooks and sweets, but volunteers from GracePoint Wesleyan Church and the community have for years worked to make Halloween a safer time for children with their Trunk or Treat event.

It’s something of a local tradition now, going on since about 2013 by GracePoint Community Life Pastor Dave Hopewell’s and GracePoint Children’s Pastor Jessey Mook’s estimation. The line for this year’s is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 31, and continue until 8 p.m.

From the start, Trunk or Treat was about two main things for GracePoint: Offering a safe alternative to door-to-door trick-or-treating and providing a way for the church to show its gratitude and serve its community.

Those central ideas have not changed since they first started doing it, but it has grown through the years and it’s gotten more organized.

Trunk or Treat still sees scores of vehicles with decorated trunks and tons of candy fill the parking lot at GracePoint Wesleyan Church. When the event was first done, they had about 500 people come through, according to Hopewell. They believe more than 2,000 people went to Trunk or Treat last year.

“We gave away over a literal ton of candy these last two years,” Hopewell said. “We always say it’s the most amount of candy per square foot.”

Although they’re excited to know so many members of the community turn out for the fun, it’s not about the numbers.

“The number doesn’t measure our success; it’s are we actually affecting our community in a positive way?” Hopewell said.

He added that although they try to offer the first chance to participate and volunteer to people from within the church, they welcome people and groups from outside of the church to join the fun.

They’re planning to have as many as 70 vehicles in this year’s lineup, and they have quite the range in themes already, from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to emojis to Christmas. Some of the trunks feature games instead of candy.

“We want people to deck them out and have fun. That’s part of the excitement of walking around for the kids, to see what the trunks are dressed up like. But we do ask people not to make them scary – this is kid friendly, so we don’t need any horror or haunting themes. We want to make them kid friendly and fun and exciting for the families,” Hopewell said.

They even look forward to Trunk or Treat themselves, and they both plan to be in costumes for the night. Hopewell, his wife and children will be dressed as different Dr. Seuss characters, and Mook’s keeping his costume a secret. In the past, he’s gone as an inflatable arm-flailing tube man and as a character from the cartoon show “Adventure Time.”

But the night is about the kids, and families are excited for the event if lines are any indication. The line officially opens at 6 p.m., but every year, they have people begin to line up around 5:15 p.m. or 5:30 p.m.

There will be more than sweets and games there, too. Visitors can grab a hotdog and warm up in the church’s new addition completed earlier this year.

“We have a couple things stationed inside for people to come in and warm up and do some arts and crafts, get some pictures taken,” Hopewell said.

There are two parts of the evening that Hopewell looks forward to: the pep talk just before they open up the parking lot to the families, and that moment near the end of the night’s activities when they give the go-ahead to give out as much candy as they like.

Mook enjoys the chance to interact with everybody in a way that he doesn’t always get to as a pastor. He’s found it’s a great time for creating friendships and building relationships with others.

Since it began, it’s become better organized.

“It used to be let’s just make a giant circle or a bunch of rows. People would come in and they’d go every direction, people would go through the lines 40 times,” Mook said. “It was kind of chaos, especially when it went from about 500 people the first year to the next year when it was 1,000 people.”

Bringing more order to the event was one of the things that Hopewell focused on and accomplished when he started working on the event.

But one thing has not changed: the message of thanks, Brookings, for letting GracePoint be a part of the community.

Contact Eric Sandbulte at

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