BRIDGEPORT — A grassroots effort is underway to start a new Halloween tradition at Donovan Park, one that replaces traditional trick-or-treating with a big neighborhood party.
"We just want to be somewhere safe and not have to worry about our kids," said Therese LePretre, a 39-year-old mom who sits on the board of Bridgeport Little Major League, which for years has used the park, 3620 S. Lituanica Ave., for ball games.
Together with the park's volunteer advisory council, LePretre and others have created the Halloween Party at the park, which will feature pumpkin paintings, games and trick-or-treating stations. It's scheduled to take place 6-8 p.m. Thursday. Here's how it works:
Families are invited to bring candy, Halloween decorations and games to the park, which will provide tables doubling as candy vending stations.
Instead of going door-to-door, costumed kids are invited to show up at the park, grab some candy and stick around to play some games. The cost is $3 per kid, and everyone's invited.
Lydia Roldan, 31, the advisory council's vice president, said Halloween in Bridgeport has turned truly frightening recent years, and it's not because of kids in costumes. She said there have been carloads of teens shooting paintballs, starting fights and even flashing guns.
The party "will be a little more of a controlled environment" for kids, she said.
Thursday's event will also be a showcase for the newly renovated Donovan Park playground, part of a trio of the Bridgeport and McKinley Park playgrounds that were awarded funding for major renovations as part of the Chicago Plays! initiative.
LePretre and Roldan, both lifelong Bridgeport residents, said they're hoping to see more involvement from the denizens of the tony new homes that have sprung up around the park.
The first development, 37 rowhouses on Sangamon Street known as Lexington Square, is sold out. A second phase of 24 more homes is nearly complete. Another development featuring nine single-family homes on the park's south side is also under construction.
"This could be the start of a new family tradition," LePetre said. "Why wouldn't you want to be in a nice environment?"