Annual Hallapalooza Night offers safe alternative for community

This Halloween Celebrate New Life Tabernacle, off of Apalachee Parkway, cast away demons and ghosts, and ushered in musical chairs to the tune of gospel at the church’s annual Hallapalooza Night.

The event, which took place on Halloween night, supplanted the traditional ways of Halloween, with a fun fall festival, for families to celebrate the day safely.

Entering the church grounds on Halloween night was nothing short of a spectacle. The church, tenderly referred to as CNLT, is concealed behind towering live oak trees, and is unveiled at the end of a winding road one-fourth of a mile long, where the 8,000 square foot facility stood, decked out in decorations for the season.

The coordinator of the event, Khadija Smith, who also presides over the church’s youth ministry, strove to make the event the incarnation of the family atmosphere.

“The church’s mission is to better the community and there is no better way than to start by enriching our youth,” Smith says. “Many of our own members have come out, but looking around, I would say that about 60 percent of those here, are not members, and [that’s] really what we here at CNLT are about, and it is what we strive to accomplish every year at our Hallapalooza Night.”

The amazing realization about the event is that, short of hearing the gospel music played at one of the stations to win prizes and the Grace before dinner, one could almost forget that they were attending an event put on by a church.

One attendee, Taylor Massey, single mother of three boys, all dressed up as Power Rangers, remarks, “Sometimes I can be kind of hesitant coming to church events, because of how my family will be perceived, but [we’ve] been attending this event for 4 years now, and the church has been nothing short of welcoming.” As Massey looks over affectionately at her youngest son Jay, completely demolishing the competition at the dance marathon, she continues, “It’s just a place where I know my kids can look forward to, and a place I know we won’t be judged.”

Throughout the night, families poured in, and many children had one thing in mind: food. Picnic tables were set up towards the rear of the church, where deacons grilled burgers and hotdogs, and deaconesses served it to the guests. With the amount of foot traffic the event was getting, many thought the food would run out, but just as Jesus fed 5000 with five loaves of bread and three fish, the deacons knew a shortage of food would not be an issue.

All throughout the night, adult and child bore costumes, and the church grounds became Batman’s lair, Moana’s Island of Tefiti, and Wonder Woman’s home of Themyscira. A particularly comical family concept was a family of Smurfs, in which the family coated themselves in blue.

For the children who did not want to wear or costume, or for the families who were unable to provide one, face paint by the ministry’s Daughters of Virtue, Excellence & Spirit, or D.O.V.E.S, transformed these imaginative children into the most beautiful butterflies, and strongest superheroes.

Judging by the parents eager to put their children to bed, and the children’s insistence that they stay longer, it is clear that the church fulfilled its mission to community on this spooky turned sacred evening.

In the closing prayer and perfect way to end the event, Bishop Joseph Henderson, the head of CNLT, simply remarks, “We have done what God has called us to, and if we don’t see you all this Sunday, we better see y’all for Christmas.”