By Cassandra Harris-Lockwood
In 2015 while running for office, Franklin Davis became disillusioned with politics and wanted to do something for the kids. He spoke to his sister, Senora Pierce about what they could do to give kids a happy and safe Halloween in this age of child abduction and random violence.
The duo went on to connect with Frances Frazier, Jerome McKinsey, Tiffanie Davis and Jennifer Crawford to develop Harvest on the Hill, a Halloween stroll along James Street. There agencies, families, and companies would set up tables on corners to offer candy and treats. Select DJ’s could play music to set the mood for the trick or treaters along the way.
For the next three years Harvest on the Hill has grown tenfold. A solid organizing team coordinates the festivities. Just last year there were nearly 2,000 revelers proudly showing their costumes and filling their bags with candy and other treats.
This year, as plans were being finalized to add a parade along James St. to the event, the weather took a turn for the worst. A cold rain was forecast and this year’s organizers connected with city officials to move the venue indoors to the Parkway Recreation Center. It was an unexpected and last minute move that became a great success.
Along with the sea of organized tables and booths for children and their guardians to maneuver to get their treats, the DJ’s of Utica’s newest radio station, 95.5FM The Heat, held down the main floor and the main stage sending the sounds of Hip Hop music throughout the gym. Phoenix Radio DJ’S Big B and Sho Nuff manned the turntables while Lew Fresh and Mercedies the Gentleman Benz, commanded the main stage as Emcees.
Two more DJ booths greeted and entertained Trick or Treaters upstairs and down in the massive structure of the Rec Center. Long lines of children and families queued up waiting for entry as the fun-filled event went on throughout the afternoon.
Hundreds upon hundreds of delighted children and families maneuvered through the huge facility proudly showing off their costumes while at least 30 Charter School volunteers assisted in directing the joyful crowd to the next stage in the process of sampling every booth.
Companies such as Adirondack Bank, the Teachers Union, the UPD, the Fire Department were all there. The OC Sheriff’s Department provided photo ID’s for children. The AKA sorority shared books as well as candy. For The Good, Inc. handed out apples donated from North Star Orchard.
Candidates Anthony Brindisi and Jessica Reynolds Amuso addressed the attentive crowd. Mayor Palmieri was on hand to marvel at the orderly and festive gathering. Apparently there are some goofy photo booth photos as evidence!
Beautiful Diamonds dance group, Utica Bulldog cheerleaders, and other performances charmed the large and happy crowd of children and young people. A rapper and dance challenges added to the festivities. Waves of free style dancers were ushered off and on the main stage area in front of the Phoenix Radio DJ booth to the pleasure of the crowd.
And there were many memorable costumes. Most notably the tall and lovely Lavonka Sanchious, as Red Riding Hood controlling her vicious and snarling Wolves, pictured on the cover of this month’s edition of the Utica Phoenix.
This event proved that even under unexpected adverse conditions our community can rally and still have a great time, rain or shine.