Trunk or Treat: In Palm Beach County, is it ousting trick-or-treating?

With the hatch of their SUV open and surrounded by baby dolls with dark, haunting eyes, Jeanine and Rick Darquea of Wellington handed out candy to eager Boys & Girls Club members Friday night.

Nearby, ghouls and superheroes, princesses and cartoon foes marched among cars and trucks adorned with cobwebs and “caution” tape as haunting music filled the air. It’s not Halloween yet, but a popular event in communities that’s gathering momentum as fast as those 6-year-olds can gather M&M’s and Reese’s peanut butter cups is — some say — better and safer than the door-to-door American tradition.

It’s called trunk-or-treating where the unknown element of candy from streets and houses has been replaced by trunks of minivans and sport utility vehicles in well-lit parking lots, often churches or schools. Or, as in the case of the Wellington Boys & Girls Club, a fenced-in field.

The hardcore Halloween enthusiasts said trunk-or-treat events serve as an extension of the spooky fun of the season — but could it signal an altogether end for trick-or-treating?

“I think it’s a good supplement,” Rick Darquea said. “But replace it? Never.”

Wellington residents Jesse and Kristen Kearney aren’t so sure.

“I think for some, this replaces trick-or-treating because it’s a safer event,” Jesse Kearney said. “It does take away some of the nostalgia of trick-or-treating, but in these times it’s so much safer.”

This year – the third the club has held its own trunk-or-treat – there were an estimated 400 children who intermittently filled the grassy spaces between vehicles parked behind the club.

READ: Vanilla Ice returns for massive Winterfest in Wellington

“Every year it gets a little bit better,” said Nicole Hessen, chair of the programming committee at the Neil S. Hirsch Boys & Girls Club in Wellington.

The event played out across Palm Beach County on Friday night, including spots on Lyons Road in Boynton Beach and Lantana Road in Lake Worth.

Each year, law enforcement agencies throughout the United State participate in and even sponsor trunk-or-treat events, also known as Halloween tailgating.

Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies were on hand Friday evening at the Boys & Girls Club, where they handed out candy and commended children on their costumes. PBSO spokeswoman Teri Barbera said they also will attend a trunk-or-treating event at Wellington Community High School from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday.

In West Palm Beach, police are helping sponsor a trunk-or-treat event in Northwood Village on Halloween, which falls on a Tuesday this year.

Hessen said trunk-or-treating “definitely” is a safer Halloween activity than having children walking up and down sidewalks and crossing streets.

“We know the people handing out the candy are high-quality community members,” she said, adding that the Wellington village council and staff participate in the event.

Joanne Duffy, volunteer coordinator at Royal Palm Beach Elementary School, said while safety was a driving force behind the school having its first trunk-or-treat event this year — open only to students and their families — is also is about building community and having fun.

“We’ve had a lot of parents step up and get involved,” she said of the event. Teachers and administration members volunteered, as did some Royal Palm Beach High School students. “One teacher decided she wanted her car to be book-themed,” Duffy said.

At Palms West Presbyterian Church in Loxahatchee Groves, director of family ministries Melanie Stepp said the annual trunk-or-treat event bridges a divide between older generations and children. “You have a cross-generational activity,” she said.

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