GUSTINE - Downtown Gustine will once again be transformed into a sea of costume-clad characters (of all ages) on Halloween night, when the city hosts its annual “trunk-or-treat” event.

Now in its fourth year, the trunk-or-treat has become a staple in the city’s long list of annual celebrations and traditions.

An alternative to traditional trick-or-treating, the trunk-or-treat event brings the community together for a centralized Halloween celebration in which candy is distributed from the trunks of decorated vehicles parked on the street. Participating stores will also be handing out candy, noted organizer Tiffany Vitorino, the city’s recreation supervisor.

The crowd last year packed two downtown Gustine blocks for the Halloween event. This year, Vitorino noted, the celebration will extend another half block to the north, giving more businesses the opportunity to participate and to accommodate additional vehicles.

“Last year we had about 30 trunks. I’m hoping for more this year so that we can stretch that to fill the additional space,” Vitorino advised.

Many offer games as well as hand out candy.

“I always suggest a game to them,” Vitorino noted. “A game slows down the kids (stretching the candy supply longer) and lets them enjoy it more because they are participating.”

A scavenger hunt card (which can be picked up at one of two check-in points) guides youngsters through participating businesses.

A grant from First 5 Merced County, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of young children and families through a variety of initiatives, will allow the Halloween carnival to add a “scare free zone” in City Hall for toddlers and children up to 5 years of age.

“We will have a little play equipment, and we will have the cartoon movie ‘Dumbo’ playing,” said Vitorino.

Outside, the featured movie will be the 2019 “Dumbo” keeping with the circus carnival theme of the evening.

A circus-style performer will be on hand to entertain those in attendance, Vitorino noted, and happy, friendly clown costumes are welcome.

Frightening clown costumes will not be allowed.

“We don’t want scary or creepy clowns,” stressed Vitorino.

Many with vehicles at the trunk-or-treat go all out in their decorations, adding to the atmosphere of the event.

“It is amazing. They light up the street with their decorations,” Vitorino commented. “We get businesses and clubs, and there are individuals who just want to come out and participate as well. It is a very family-oriented event, and for all ages.”

Already, she said recently, “I have heard people talking about dressing up their kids in the theme.”

The free carnival offers youngsters a safe environment in which to enjoy the evening - while still being able to make the rounds in search of candy.

“This keeps everybody together and safe. Even the older kids are down here,” Vitorino remarked. “I see a lot of the teenagers going through.”

She is taking donations of candy at City Hall to supplement the supplies of those with vehicles at the event and financial contributions for the purchase of candy and to help defray the expense of the circus performer and a bounce house.

Vehicles may be registered up to the day before the trunk-or-treat event, Vitorino said, but earlier registration is preferred.

Contact Vitorino at 854-9411 or for more information.