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Candy: Get your fill-age at the village

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A parade of superheroes, princesses and "Star Wars" characters will descend on Kern Pioneer Village for thrills, laughs and, most importantly, candy.

Safe Halloween, the annual event held at what is now called Kern Pioneer Village (formerly the Kern County Museum), will once again transform the grounds into a trick-or-treater's paradise, with 50 candy stations to fill the youngsters' bags with plenty of the sweet stuff.

"They are guaranteed lots of candy," said Grace Martin, the museum's development assistant and event organizer. 

It's the first major event under the museum's new leadership, but Safe Halloween won't stray much from what guests have come to know and love over four decades. In fact, new CEO Zoot Velasco's biggest decision with the event was the one he made to sit back and let the Halloween experts on staff do their thing.

"My understanding is that it's the biggest event we do all year," Velasco said. "We get thousands of families at this event. Everyone knows what to expect, so if it's not broke, don't fix it. I've been completely hands off, and I can't wait to see what (the staff members) do."

For $10 a person ($8 for members), children will visit 50 stations in the pursuit of candy. Each of the stations is operated by volunteering groups.

"We've got some really great organizations and businesses (involved)," Martin said. "They take a house on the grounds, decorate it and hand out candy."

To balance out the children's sugar intake with something a little more substantial, there will also be food for sale, like hot dogs and pizza. But if more sugar is necessary to keep the little ones awake long enough to collect their money's worth, there will also be funnel cake and other sweet treats to buy too.

Like previous years, the event will happen on two nights, Halloween and the night before. Martin said the 30th tends to be busier, with many parents taking their children trick-or-treating in their neighborhoods the night of Halloween. 

"It's a great way to get use out of your costumes," Martin said, whether it's one that was expensive and store-bought or one that took a lot of effort to make.

In addition to plenty of candy, another draw of Safe Halloween is right there in the name: roaming the grounds of Kern Pioneer Village is safer than walking the streets at night, Martin said. Kids will not only be safe and stocked up on candy, they might also learn a thing or two, thanks to the signs posted outside each house.

"It's a really great opportunity for kids to have fun getting candy and still see all the exhibits," Martin said. "They're getting the historical education experience without really knowing it."

The museum can take in about 3,000 children each night, with their parents or guardians, bringing total attendance up to about 6,000 or 7,000 a night. Safe Halloween can sell out, so Martin encouraged parents not to wait to buy tickets at the door but to call ahead and buy them early. Doing so is worth it for what promises to be a fun time for families. 

"You're guaranteed lots of candy, you're off the street away from traffic and you don't have to worry about getting all dressed up and then (finding out) only a few houses in your neighborhood have their lights on," she said.

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