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Children really “get into” getting into costume, once they get old enough to understand the concept. And a lot of parents, too, love the chance to indulge in a little fantasy, and take their spooky secret selves out for a stroll – all in a safe, family-friendly way.

This carnival of crazy characters was in full view Saturday afternoon at Mackle Park, as the annual Halloween Spooktacular returned put local residents in touch with their inner ghoul. Ahead of actual Halloween on Wednesday, and in full daylight, kids of all ages dressed as vampires, pre-teenage mutant ninja turtles, cowboys and cowgirls, skeletons, superheroes, and of course princesses.

They played games such as beanbag toss through the eyes of the jack o’lantern, had balloon animals twisted for them, made sequined skulls at the crafts tables, and watched “Jeff the Juggler” toss his balls in the air. They lined up for the Hoky Poky, the chicken dance, and the cha cha slide, then paraded in the costume contest. They smooshed whipped cream “pies” into the face of MIA Key Club volunteers including sophomore Tyler Chute, and purchased Key Club baked goods, kettle corn, or hot dogs and hamburgers from the Optimist Club’s booth.

New this year, the “Haunted Hospital” showcased demented doctors performing sadistic surgery in a darkened room, with admission limited to those age 10 or older. The Parks and Recreation staff got into the action in a big way, with recreation supervisor “Madame Lola” Dial as a spectral fortune teller who had had “a little work done” on her face. She told fortunes for customers including husband Eric Dial of Marco’s utilities dept., whose fortune she presumably has the ability to influence.

Supervisor of parks facilities Martha Montgomery and daughter Mary used makeup to open up gashes in their faces, with Mary seemingly unzipping her skin, and getting a little last-minute touchup from her dad.

“Pat the bunny” was a popular activity for the little ones, but some children including Jesse Alexander, 3, were less thrilled by “pat the gator,” and seemed a little hesitant, even though the baby alligator’s jaws were taped shut.

All in all, though, everyone seemed to be having a “frightfully” good time.

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