Halloweekend is a magical time not only for Vassar students, but also for children in the community. One of the events that connected the College to the larger Poughkeepsie area this season was Davison House’s Halloween Fest, which took place on Saturday, Oct. 27, at the Walker Field House.
The Town of Poughkeepsie Parks and Recreation Department initiated the Halloween Fest 12 years ago, and former Davison House Fellow and Associate Professor of Education Colette Cann became involved a few years later. Cann, along with her House Fellow Intern team and the Good Neighbors Partnership (a committee that provides grants to Vassar students, staff and faculty who collaborate with the local community), made Halloween Fest a Davison House tradition. This year, Davison House’s new House Fellows, Maritza Del Razo and Assistant Professor of Education Jaime Del Razo, continued the ritual with support from local businesses and the Town of Poughkeepsie Parks and Recreation.
Davison House Fellow Interns (HFIs) Brenna Douthitt ’20 and Kevin Fernandez ’20 took the lead in organizing the event, alongside their colleagues on house team Thuy Le ’21 and Lorice Rodney ’20. Both veteran HFIs, Douthitt and Fernandez wanted to ensure that Halloween Fest continued this year with the same enthusiasm. House Fellow Maritza Del Razo praised the interns’ contributions, commenting, “They have worked countless hours on this event and led our team for many, many weeks now. Brenna and Kevin have formed an excellent team, leading with calm composure while taking decisive action and being the selfless voice of Vassar students.”
Discussing how he originally became involved in Halloween Fest, Fernandez explained, “I started as a volunteer during my first year and I enjoyed doing it … My role at the time was to gather as many volunteers as I can. Now, as a returning/ veteran/Junior House Fellow Intern, I became one of the lead organizers for Halloween Fest.”
Halloween Fest is not only entertaining, but also connects Vassar with the surrounding community. Since Vassar is nestled in the Town of Poughkeepsie, the school is constantly using the town’s resources. The Fest is a way to commemorate the neighborhood’s ongoing support. Douthitt stated, “This event is really important to me because Vassar is a part of Poughkeepsie; we use Poughkeepsie’s fire department and police force, and local businesses are just next door, yet we tend to be very separated from the rest of the community. Halloween Fest allows us to give back to Poughkeepsie by providing a completely free event for children and families.” Del Razo described Halloween Fest as an “act of love,” saying, “The generous sharing of resources is a loving practice. Halloween Fest is an example of Vassar students, faculty, staff, local businesses and community members coming together to share their resources, their time, their skills and themselves for the simple act of bringing joy to children around a fun theme.”
Del Razo, Douthitt and Fernandez acknowledged the support of the Town of Poughkeepsie Parks and Recreation, the house team, the 40 student volunteers, the Good Neighbors Partnership, Twisted Soul, Poughkeepsie Farm Project and the Barefoot Monkeys. These collaborations allowed the event to be the grandest it has ever been, hosting over 15 different activities both traditional and new.
Douthitt explained, “This year we had some of the classic activities from the festival such as bouncy houses, slime-making, face painting and the costume contest, but we also introduced some new activities. We added a craft making witch hats out of cookies and chocolate, lollipop ghosts and a station where kids can decorate their own monster out of popsicle sticks and googly eyes.” Del Razo also introduced a reading booth, which she has installed at many other community events, in order to promote a love of reading and learning. Douthitt remarked, “We had many Halloween books in both English and Spanish, and children could read and be read to. When they were finished the children got to bring home their book.”
Douthitt, Fernandez and the rest of the Davison House Fellow Intern team have major plans for the future. Spring Fest, another event thrown by Davison House, will again offer free activities to the community, this time with a springtime theme. The HFI team considers Halloween and Spring Fest important in bridging the gap between the town and the college.
Fernandez summarized the spirit of the Fest: “What motivates me to keep doing this event is that I enjoy putting smiles on the children, family and volunteers’ faces. Lately, my motivation has shifted a bit since I want to make Vassar College an open environment for the people in the Town of Poughkeepsie. I want there to stop being a division between the college and the rest of town. We have to pop the Vassar bubble once and for all.”