MT. PLEASANT — Henry County is the place to be for Halloween activities that are fun and healthy. Annual fall events encourage county residents to get out, explore and get a little exercise in as well.
Glowing Pumpkin Fun Run
The Mt. Pleasant Family Recreation and Fitness Center (REC) is hosting its Glowing Pumpkin Fun Run on Friday, Oct. 25. REC Center Executive Director Ryan Duffie says the center has grown the event over the past seven years. He anticipates a healthy crowd of 400 people to take part in the event, which opens registration and activities at 6 p.m. in East Lake Park. The run officially begins at 7 p.m.
According to Duffie, the center decided to begin hosting the 5K because they “saw a need for family fun event in the fall.” What started as a simple fun run has now grown to become a large event that includes carnival games, costume contests and obstacle courses. This year, the event also will include a bouncy house for kids and a costume contest specifically for pets. Duffie said the event has grown to accommodate the interests of the participants.
“We noticed people would bring their kids so we started bringing in the games and activities for kids … then people started bringing their pets to the park so this year is the first time we’re doing a costume contest for the pets,” he said. Duffie also added that the REC center moved the event from its usual Thursday night to a Friday night to make it easier for families and students to come out and enjoy the event.
As part of the 5K, the REC center puts festive lights and Halloween decorations and paraphernalia to guide people through the park and the course, allowing families to enjoy a night stroll or run.
“Every five feet, we put in two lights. There’s nothing scary and it glows around the whole park,” Duffie said.
“We want to celebrate in a healthy way and healthy manner … it’s a great way to inspire people to get out, see the park, and think about what they can do. It’s about getting people that wouldn’t be in that mind-set to visit the park to come out,” the executive director added.
For those interested in registering for the run, visit https://www.mpreccenter.com.
Like the REC Center, the Henry County Conservation Department has several fall-themed events geared toward getting local residents to explore their center and be interested in nature. This year, the department is pioneering an escape room event at the Oakland Mills Nature Center, geared toward getting teenagers and young adults out to the center.
The escape room will occur in two time slots, starting at 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Monday Oct. 29 and Tuesday, Oct. 29. Those interested in doing the escape room must register online beforehand to be able to participate. Each team must have a minimum of four members to participate.
As part of the escape room, participants will get “locked” in the nature center and must find clues in order to get out. The center staff have created two different scenarios and separated the center into two areas for two different groups to go through the escape room simultaneously. Each group has one hour to break out.
“It’s geared toward people who have never done it before. Usually these escape rooms are in big cities and we’re trying to provide that a little bit more local,” Henry County Naturalist Cari Nicely said. The naturalist also explained that the center staff can change the difficulty level depending on whether a group has any experience with escape rooms.
Nicely noted that the goal with the new event is to “get an audience” that the nature center doesn’t already serve. According to the naturalist, the center is really popular with younger students and older retired residents, but has been missing the demographic between those two age groups.
“We were looking at trying new things to get people to the park,” Nicely added.
Nicely hopes that the event will hook new park goers and will inspire them to come out to more events and spend more time in nature.
“We want to make us their destination,” Nicely said.
To register for the escape room, visit mycountyparks.com. The event costs $6 per person. All proceeds goes toward feeding the hawk and owl population at the park.
Another fun run to look out for is New London’s 7th annual Monster Mash 5K on Oct. 19. The run will start at 5:30 p.m. at City Park. The 5K serves as a fundraiser for their Holiday Stroll, which happens in December.
Linda Vacek, who leads and organizes both the Monster Mash 5K and the Holiday Stroll, anticipates a group of 20 to 25 participants at this year’s 5K and is hoping to raise $300 for their holiday activities, which is generally how much the run raises.
In addition to its usual costume contest, this year, the first female and male participants to cross the finish line will receive free running shoes from the local Brown Shoe Fit.
“My favorite part each year is getting to see all the costumes … sometimes we have little kids in there which is fun,” Vacek said.
While the event involves mostly local participants, Vacek said the event often attracts people from all over Iowa.
“People come and use as exercise to prepare for other bigger events,” she said. The organizer also noted that the event is often popular with local high school students who participate in track teams.
Participants can pick up registration forms for the 5K at the New London Public Library or can have one sent electronically by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.