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story.lead_photo.caption Wanda Posey, left, and Joyce Robinson, co-directors of the 12th annual Spook City in downtown Benton, pose behind some Halloween decorations. Spook City, scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday, is a free event that features tons of candy, rides and inflatables. - Photo by Staci Vandagriff

Marcus Loobey learned to walk on stilts two years ago. Shortly after learning how to walk on them, he showed up at the annual Spook City in Benton.

“I just wanted to dress up as something different,” said Loobey, who lives in Benton. “And it just kind of stuck. I have made all kinds of costumes, and [event organizers] have just asked me if I would come back.

“It is something I like to do for fun, and the kids get excited.”

The first year, he threw his costume together in about a week and came as a clown. Last year, Loobey came dressed as Jack Skellington from the 1993 film The Nightmare Before Christmas.

“The first year, I was really nervous about [walking through the crowd on stilts],” Loobey said. “Since then, it is not really that difficult, unless children try to pull on my legs and throw my balance off.”

Loobey said he isn’t sure what he is going to dress up as for this year’s Spook City, which will take place Saturday, beginning at 5 p.m., in downtown Benton. He said he is probably going to go as Jack Skellington again, or he might be a scarecrow.

“I just enjoy seeing everyone’s reaction,” Loobey said. “That’s what I like to do — see their reaction, especially the kids.”

Spook City is presented by the Downtown Benton Business Owners Association. Admission is free, but $5 wristbands are available

for purchase in advance at Regions Bank in downtown Benton, Paradise Pets or Posey’s Service. Tickets will also be sold at the event. A wristband allows unlimited access to the inflatables and one ride on each of the following: two trains, the pirate ship, the mini Ferris wheel and Joey the Friendly Firetruck, which is new this year.

Wanda Posey, co-chairwoman of Spook City, said it is a real firetruck with lights and sirens and is driven by a retired firefighter from Little Rock. There will also be pony rides and a rock-climbing wall for an additional $5 each.

Posey said the event draws so many because it is affordable and safe. She said people can attend and not spend a lot of money. She said Benton Police Department officers, Benton Fire Department personnel and Saline County Sheriff’s Office deputies and reserve members will be on hand to help out at the event.

The three main intersections around the downtown square will serve as “a safe zone.” Posey said the officers and volunteers will guide guests to specific activities.

“I just enjoy watching the kids,” Posey said. “It makes it worth it. We are so exhausted by the time the event starts, but when we see all the kids, it reminds us of why we do it.”

Other free activities at Spook City include pumpkin bowling and face-painting.

Joyce Robinson, co-director for Spook City, expects there to be at least 60 booths to hand out candy. She said all the money raised through the event will go to next year’s Spook City, which organizers will begin planning almost immediately after this year’s activities. She said the event raised almost $2,000 last year, and that covered the cost of the candy.

As a result of Spook City’s free admission, it is hard to gauge how many people attend the event, but Robinson estimated anywhere from 5,000 to 8,000 people. If it rains, the event will be moved to Oct. 22.

For more information on Spook City, visit Facebook/SpookCity or Facebook/DowntownBentonEvents.

In addition to Spook City, the city of Benton will once again host the annual Arkansas Coffin Races and the Zombie Parade on Saturday.

“I think it is a family-oriented activity, and kids get to dress up during Halloween,” Benton Mayor David Mattingly said. “This is a special activity and a day that allows many children to walk in a parade, and our coffin races are unique, to say the least.”

New this year is the first Little Miss and Little Man Zombie Pageant at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Royal Theatre in Benton. The pageant is open to all zombies ages 3 to 10, with two age groups for boys and girls. The entry fee for the pageant is $25, and admission is $1. There will also be a prize for the zombie with the best backstory. The deadline to enter the pageant is Wednesday.

Tina Coston, director of marketing and special events for the city, said all the proceeds raised from the pageant, the parade and the race will go to the Young Players theater group.

The Zombie Parade will begin at noon Saturday at the Farmers Market, 124 W. Ashley Street, and will end at the courthouse. The coffin races will begin at 1 p.m., and there will be a viewing area from the courthouse lawn along Main Street. Mattingly said organizers expect an even bigger crowd than last year.

“I think people were surprised at how much fun they had,” Coston said. “It is a really fun event.”

There is a $35 entry fee for the Arkansas Coffin Races, with a check-in time of 11:15 a.m. There will also be makeup artists at the Farmers Market, beginning at 10:30 a.m., for anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable applying zombie makeup themselves. The band Just Sayin’ will wrap up the activities, beginning at 3 p.m., with a performance at Main Street Station.

For more information on the Zombie Parade or the coffin races, visit www.bentonproud.com.

Staff writer Sam Pierce can be reached at (501) 244-4314 or spierce@arkansasonline.com.

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