NEWMAN - Downtown Newman will be transformed into a Halloween carnival once again when Oct. 31 rolls around in just three weeks.

The Halloween festivities forego frightfulness and instead focus on family-friendly fun and frivolity, organizers say, bringing community members together to enjoy the spirit of the evening in a safe setting.

The “trunk-or-treat” event is once again sponsored by the Newman Partnership, a coalition of community organizations.

“Trunk-or-treating” is an alternative to traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating on Halloween night. Instead, young ghosts, fairy tale princesses, witches and superheroes gather to collect candy distributed from vehicles which are elaborately decorated in a Halloween theme.

Last year’s first-ever Newman trunk-or-treat exceeded expectations several times over, said RoseLee Hurst, one of the organizers.

“I thought we were going to have a few hundred people,” she recalled. “Instead, there were crowd estimates of up to 2,000 people.”

In response, Hurst said, organizers have made several changes to the event to better accommodate the anticipated crowd.

This year, the block of Main Street between Fresno and Tulare streets will be designated as “game alley” and no vehicles will be allowed to park on the block. Rather, participants will park their decorated vehicles and dispense candy in the downtown plaza. Candy may also be distributed from booths in the plaza.

The crowd was elbow-to-elbow last year, Hurst noted, so the new layout will provide more space for the Halloween crowd to spread out.

Given the sheer numbers of youngsters on hand, plans for a costume parade/contest fell by the wayside at last year’s trunk-or-treat event.

A costume contest will again be part of this year’s event, Hurst said, with judges fanning out through the crowd to select costumes that catch their eye. Costume categories have been expanded to include children, teens, couples, adults and families.

Hours have been moved back to 5-8 p.m., Hurst said, to better coincide with Gustine’s Halloween event and to discourage participants from going trick-or-treating through neighborhoods when the downtown festivities have been wrapped up.

Participants must sign in, Hurst emphasized. Check-in points will be located at both ends of the Main Street block. Youngsters will be provided with a mylar bag in which to collect their bounty of Halloween candy and trinkets. Donations from several organizations made the purchase of 1,600 mylar bags possible, Hurst noted.

She said about 30 individuals, businesses or organizations participated in the trunk-or-treat activity last year. Organizers are hoping for as many or more this year, she said. The deadline for registering a vehicle or booth for the event is Friday, Oct. 11.

Organizers are also putting candy donation barrels at Mattos Newspapers, Merchants Bank (formerly Rabobank), Bank of the West and Nob Hill Foods. Candy donations are accepted through Oct. 24.

“We will have candy downtown and if people run out they can come and get more,” said Hurst.

Those wishing to donate toward the purchase of candy may contact Hurst at 681-5220 to make arrangements.

Registration forms are available at Mattos Newspapers or by contacting Hurst either by phone or by email at rhurst@sbcglobal.net, or Chanelle Raboteau at craboteau@nclusd.k12.ca.us.

The community Halloween festival was wildly popular last year, Hurst reflected, and she anticipates an even better event this year.

“The most enjoyable part was just walking around and looking at all the costumes, and just talking to people and being together,” Hurst commented. “People seemed to really enjoy it, and it kept children and families off the streets and in a safe location.”