HELENA – Hundreds of people came to Helena’s Montana WILD Education Center Sunday for the Howl-o-Ween Fun Fest.
The annual family-friendly Halloween celebration was held at Montana WILD for the first time.
“What it is is an opportunity for kids to have a safe environment, to do a lot of Halloween activities, but also learn about our state’s fish and wildlife and have an opportunity to participate in some outdoor recreation as well,” said Laurie Wolf, education manager for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
The Fun Fest featured a variety of games and activities for all ages. Organizations like ExplorationWorks and the Montana Discovery Foundation took part in the event, as did the Baxendale Fire Department. Blue Cross and Blue Shield provided free flu shots through its Care Van program.
“We’re really appreciative that they’re giving up their time to come in here on a Sunday and run booths,” Wolf said.
There was even a costume exchange, where kids could trade for a new Halloween costume.
Anne Wootan attended the event with her kids Liam, age 2 ½, and Nora, 8 months old.
“I think they really enjoyed seeing all the big animals inside, like the bears,” she said. “And then outside they got to do some of the different games like fishing. I think he really enjoyed that.”
In previous years, this event was hosted by the Montana Children’s Trust Fund. But Wolf said they didn’t have the capacity to hold it this year, so Montana WILD and other partners took over.
“We knew it was a great event, and we had a lot of kids that enjoyed it,” said Wolf. “We didn’t want to lose the event, so we took it over.”
Wolf said Montana WILD has made it a priority to remove barriers to kids connecting with the outdoors, and that holding the Fun Fest gave them a chance to showcase what they have to offer.
“We are a free resource for families here in Helena, and so we thought this would be a great way to introduce those families who have not been here before to Montana WILD,” she said.
Montana WILD is typically open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. It also offers a number of educational and recreational programs in the evenings.
Wootan said she had never attended the Fun Fest before, and that she was impressed.
“I thought it was really nice,” she said. “I was surprised at how much they had, and I know that we’ll probably be back again next year.”