October has already been packed full of autumnal events, but not many of them can boast a both fun and free time like Hart Park After Dark. 

After a successful first year, Hart Park After Dark is returning for its second on Saturday. The family-friendly event is put on by the county, with various county departments pitching in with their own activities. 

"Last year's event was massively successful," said Jasmin LoBasso, marketing and promotions associate at the Kern County Library. "The turnout was several times more than what we expected, and we are very proud of the community's reaction. We knew people would enjoy it, but we weren't expecting so much excitement."

The inaugural event even won a Beautiful Bakersfield Award, so between the community's response and the accolades, bringing it back was a no-brainer. 

This year, the Kern County Library, County Administrative Office and Parks & Recreation department came together to plan how to follow up on last year's event. LoBasso said there are twice as many county departments involved, which means even more activities throughout the evening.

The pop-up library will host spooky stories for families at 5:30 p.m. and scary stories for adults at 7:30 p.m., while The Rugged Mermaid will lead glow in the dark yoga at 7:15 p.m. (bring a yoga mat or towel for that one). 

There will also be a historical night hike at 6 p.m., with Kern County General Services-Parks. Hikers should wear appropriate shoes and bring a flashlight.

Any October event wouldn't be complete without a costume contest. Presented by the County Administrative Office and Kern County Library, the contest will be from 5:45 to 7:45 p.m. Categories are best lookalikes, for dog and owner (5:45 p.m.); best in show, dogs (6 p.m.); cutest costumes, babies and children (6:15 p.m.); best costume (6:30 p.m. for babies and children, 7 p.m. for tweens and teens and 7:15 p.m. for adults); most original costume, tweens and teens (6:45 p.m.); and best couples costume, adults (7:30 p.m.).

"I am really enthusiastic about a lot this year, but I am particularly excited about the spooky scavenger hunt," LoBasso said. "Mystery-solving activities have gotten so popular in the last couple of years, and so I think that this family-friendly version will be a hit!"

In addition to the scavenger hunt, put on by Kern County Planning, LoBasso said she is also looking forward to the carnival-style photo-ops. 

Other activities include: spider hat crafts and finger puppet ghosts with the library; camo face-painting and pull-up bar with Kern County Veterans Services; pumpkin ring toss with Kern County Human Services; pumpkin bowling and candy with Kern County Probation; popcorn and cotton candy with the Sheriff's Activities League; photo booth and temporary face tattoos with Kern County Child Support Services; giant Jenga with Employers' Training Resource/America's Job Center; plinko board with Kern County Aging & Adult Services; stationary bike races with Bike Bakersfield; and photo opportunities with the Kern County Fire Department and Roaming Reptiles.

Stay Focused Ministries will have games for the families, while DJ The Phantom Stranger will provide the music. 

Curbside Kitchen, El Churro Loco and Kona Ice will have food available for purchase.

Guests can easily post all their photos to social media while at the park thanks to free Wi-Fi from Kern County Information Technology Services.

Large free events like this one and Touch-A-Truck, which was put on by the county in June, have been a hit with the community, LoBasso said. They are a way for people to see the free programming the library offers while highlighting the county parks and other agencies. 

"These types of free events and social opportunities make a large impact on our community's quality of life," LoBasso said. "The event is wonderful for the community. People get to see their public services in a fun setting and get to see many county departments working together and contributing to make this a success."

LoBasso encouraged people to come out and "see Hart Park in a new light."

"Bring a flashlight, dress in costume and have a whole lot of Halloween fun!"

Kelly Ardis can be reached at 661-395-7660. Follow her on Twitter at @TBCKellyArdis.

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