There were no bags of bite-sized American candy bars, no factory-made scarecrows and no store-bought rubber masks that smell like rubbish.
No, Saturday at the Twistful Meadow at TekVenture was the evening of HalloWeirdity. Dress as you like and come take part in an adventure, Jeannette Jaquish, its creator, advised the participants.
She'd spent hours clearing TekVenture's 2 1/2-acre floodplain off Griffin Street, full of nasty thistles and invasive honeysuckle, to erect a few curious and inventive signposts and stops along the way. Large puppets shared space with piles of brush and pockets of meadow left standing.
With the help of others, she'd created a fairy nursery and a giant spider, the Kafkaesque creature's branch legs attached to a core created out of two bike rims. For those who felt like a game of catch, there was a ball field, but it was ever so close to the Twisted Forest Trail.
Meanwhile, Beddy Bye Bog had a Snow White effect on participants. Those who were caught by the snaggers inside the bog fell into a long, long dreamy sleep that could only be cut short if friends rescued them and woke them up.
Jaquish, who has a long history of children's theater here, took her theater outdoors after an August 2020 fire at the TekVenture Building and adjacent buildings. The stage lighting melted. The stage itself, inside the Great Hall, remains covered in soot, she said.
Jaquish and volunteers are still trying to clean it up.
Saturday, in the mist and the muck of wet herbage, any hope of a campfire fizzled, so the few participants looked forward to crafts somewhere inside a building that wasn't as heavily damaged as other ones.
The crafts would begin once everyone decided they were finished role-playing and chasing a T. rex dinosaur played by Taylor Royse, who said he has great projects planned for the spring's cherry blossom festival.
TekVenture's weird and wonderful theatrical adventures are also known as ecstatic-theatrics by Jaquish. That pretty much opens up the field to numerous inspirations.
“My plays are fun,” Jaquish said as she walked around with a giant puppet attached to her back. “I've written over 40 plays, and they're all fun.”
Oliver Welch, 11, Abigail Valdez, 12, and her older sister, Liz Valdez, 16, took time out from role-playing or improv to talk about school and whatever other topics came to mind. Welch had to think as far back as the second grade, the year he first appeared in one of Jaquish's thespian events.
Tied to the Maker Movement, TekVenture is more than theater. The organization hosts various workshops including ceramics, art welding, woodworking, blacksmithing, electronics, parade puppet making and CNC taught by skilled instructors, according to TekVenture's website and Greg Jacobs, a founder of Science Central and former TekVenture president.
“Burning Man is probably the most extreme example of building things and creating things,” Jacobs said as he stood close to the giant spider. “This has been going on for hundreds of years.”