It’s hard to imagine Halloween being any more fun than it already is. But Kings Road School in Madison, N.J., adds a new, creative twist to the celebration. Every year, the school’s Halloween festivities are outlined in a flyer that begins “Be silly! Get scary! Get into Halloween at Kings Road School.”

On Halloween, students, teachers, and even some parents dress up for the costume parade, and room parents treat the kids to classroom parties. That’s pretty standard stuff. Kings Road’s added dimension is the Pumpkins and Poems Contest. Pumpkin entries in recent years have included witches, scary monsters, various barnyard and exotic animals, fictional characters such as Harry Potter’s Hedwig the Owl and the Headless Horseman, and even abstract collages. Poems have ranged from rap to epic. This low-cost activity is easy to put in place and fun for the whole school.

The contest grew out of the Cultural Arts program, which sponsors about four assemblies per year. While not exactly an assembly, the display of pumpkins and poems is viewed with interest by every student. “There’s 100 percent participation; everybody is either bringing in an entry or looking at what others brought in,” says Lisa Lill, who has run the contest for many years. Lill enjoys watching the proud faces of the entrants as they bring in their creations and the excited faces of all of the students as they check out the display. The school principal, secretary, and nurse have the only difficult job: judging.

As Easy as (Pumpkin) Pie

For the organizer of this event, the work can begin as late as two or three weeks before Halloween. Once you’ve gotten the budget approved, write up a flyer describing the contest and include two entry forms—one for the artistic entries and one for the literary portion.

Distribute the flyers to all students two weeks before Halloween. This is also the time to pick up the little prizes that each entrant will receive. Your local party store will have a host of Halloween-theme trinkets such as pencils, erasers, notepads, stickers, bouncy balls, and the like. Try to avoid morbid and ghoulish items that might scare some of the younger students.

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One week before the contest, order the gift certificates from a nearby children’s bookstore for the predetermined number of winners. You’ll probably want to have a pumpkin and a poem winner in each classroom. The other thing you have to do during this week is plan the display location and make arrangements with the school’s custodian. Choose a location that will be seen by all students, such as outside the all-purpose room, cafeteria, or gymnasium.

Make sure the display tables are set up on the day before the contest. Then, during the two days of the contest (usually October 30 and 31), arrive at the school about a half-hour before the start of the school day to greet the proud entrants. Your own children will be there with you, so put them to work! They’ll love to hand out the little prizes as their friends turn in their creations. Since pumpkins don’t always sit nicely on a table, bring in aluminum foil to make impromptu display stands. Another important thing to have on these two days is an emergency repair kit consisting of glue, tape, spare entry forms, and pencils.

Let the judging begin! The team of judges has a really tough job. The entries are so varied that it is often difficult to pick the “best” one. It’s a good idea to first make a short list of the silliest, the scariest, and the most original pumpkin in each class (do the same for the poems) and then pick the final winner.

The truth is that the whole school wins with this wonderful Halloween event.