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Halloween festival treat for 18 years

10/3/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

A couple shows off their costumes during last year’s DeBord Halloween Festival.
Photo courtesy of Claude DeBord
SOUTH AKRON — What started 18 years ago as a backyard Halloween party that turned into a neighborhood festival is now a community celebration attended by thousands of people, some from out of state.

It’s the DeBord Halloween Festival, a one-day family-friendly, free event that South Akron resident Claude DeBord organizes with the help of family and friends. The festival is planned this year for Oct. 12 from 2 to 10 p.m. at the VFW at 690 W. Waterloo Road.

“I like seeing the event grow each and every year, and I’ve met literally hundreds of cool people that become friends because of the event,” said DeBord, 41.

He said he always liked Halloween but doesn’t consider himself a fanatic for the holiday.

“I started having family Halloween parties in the backyard,” he said. “I decorate a lot more than most people, but it really wasn’t anything elaborate. Then I started getting more people involved, going door-to-door with fliers and getting special guests. It went from 25 people to now with 2,000 to 3,000 people.”

After the event outgrew his yard, DeBord organized a block party, but eventually that got too big to get the proper approval from the city of Akron. About six or seven years ago, he rented the VFW hall, and that’s what he continues to do today.

Most of the activities that take place as part of the festival are outdoors on the property, he said.

“We’ve got three areas, almost like a three-ring circus, going nonstop,” he said.

One stage features acoustic performances, another stage hosts bands, and a third area is where there are demonstrations of karate, as well as a fire dancer, magicians and stilt walkers.

At 6:30 p.m., Cleveland TV personalities Big Chuck and Little John will be at the event for the annual pizza eating contest. This year, that will be followed by costume contests.

The day also includes hayrides and a petting zoo. Food vendors will be on site with items for sale.

Also participating are several paranormal groups, such as the Western Reserve Ghost Hunters, and costumed characters.

Through sponsors, donations and a Neighborhood Partnership Program grant from the city of Akron, DeBord said he is still able to keep the event free for the public. Performers also volunteer their time and talents, he added.

Those who attend can donate during the event, and any money collected will go toward the next year’s festival. DeBord also plans to make a donation to Akron Children’s Hospital with some of the festival donations.

Some of the local clubs participating in the festival will be collecting canned goods for the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, DeBord added.

The event is something that he said he works on all year. He travels a lot for his job as a conveyer belt salesman, so it’s not unusual for him to be on his phone in Vermont making calls about the festival. When he travels, he also leaves fliers for the festival.

“This year, I’ve got fliers in 20 states, and I also left business cards in a couple of castles in Germany this summer,” DeBord said.

That seems to work, as he noted that last year attendees came from at least 12 states and Canada for the party.

For more information, go to www.debordhalloweenfestival.com.

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