Retro Ramblings: Fall Festivals in the ’80s

The Big Thing On My Brain This Week

With Halloween just a few days away, it’s got me in a really nostalgic mood.  Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve had a lot of great Halloween features here on TRN, and I’ve spent a fair amount of this column talking about it as well.  But I’ve yet to touch on my absolute favorite memories of the Halloween season from years gone by….fall festivals.

I’m using the term fall festival so more of you will know what I’m referring to.  But when I was in elementary school, ours was called the Harvest Festival.  Living in a farming community in the heart of the Appalachians, harvest time has always been a big deal to the people around here.  A good harvest was always a reason to celebrate, as the livelihood of most in this area depended on it.  The way nature works, the end of the harvest season lines up nicely with the Halloween season.  Thus, we had a Harvest Festival at school instead of calling it a Fall Festival, or a Monster Mash, or other names I’ve heard these events referred to.

So you’ve probably been to one of these things.  The kids dress up, there are games and events, the parents wander around and congregate, and a good time is usually had by all.  Ours was always held at our elementary school and was the biggest event on the school calendar with the exception of the end of year banquet and graduation ceremonies.

The gymnasium was filled with cheesy carnival type games where you could win prizes.  You know the kinds of games I’m talking about.  Like the kiddie pool filled with plastic ducks, and on the bottoms of a few of the ducks was some kind of indicator of a better prize than normal.  Everyone got something like a piece of candy or a spider ring just for playing, but if you pulled one of the special ducks, you may win something like a stuffed animal or the like.  So games like this littered the entire gym floor.  You had to buy tickets on your way in to use to play the games, and the money made from the sale of tickets was used for things around the school.

Our gym was connected to the lunchroom by a set of double doors, so it was easy to bounce back and forth between the two places.  In the cafeteria was where the parents generally stayed.  There were concessions like hot dogs and pizza, and there was bingo all night.  And the bingo prizes were top notch.  A lot of the businesses in town would donate really nice stuff to be given away, and this was another opportunity for the school to raise money.  I can’t even begin to remember what the bingo cost, but it wasn’t cheap.  But the price was small in comparison to how you would be helping the school, and the prizes you had a shot at winning.  I’m talking about stuff like brand new televisions, rocking chairs, a date night package with dinner at the restaurant and tickets to the theater….stuff like that.

We also had a haunted house as part of the event.  The 7th-grade class was always responsible for putting it on, and they would spend all week setting it up, and then they would dress up and be a part of the haunted house.  It was never too scary of an affair, but they tried.  We also had a dance room that some years was called The Disco, and other years was known as The Batcave.  But you could go there, the lights were turned out and black lights were in use, and there was a DJ spinning the hottest tunes of the time.  You and your friends…or your boyfriend/girlfriend could kill time together.

The whole event was great, and it was so much fun getting to run free and hang out with my friends in that environment for several hours on a Saturday night.  It was also cool that since it was usually the week before Halloween, everyone would dress up in their costumes to come.  When I find myself drifting back to memories of elementary school, the yearly harvest festival is almost always the first thing that comes to mind.  But what about you?  Did you have anything like this when you were growing up?

Things I Think I Think This Week

I think… that Burger King is losing points with me with the way they handle promotions like their newest one featuring the Ghost Whopper.  It’s a cool concept for the season, but it’s only available in 10 locations.  Why can’t the rest of us enjoy these things?  They did the same thing with the Stranger Things Whopper a few months back.  C’mon Burger King, you’re better than this.  Remember what our parents tried to teach us…if you can’t bring enough for everybody, don’t bring it at all.  Or something like that.

I think… that DTV’s Monster Hits that dropped in 1987 is a really fun way to spend an hour.  It was a special that Disney produced that featured tons of old clips from their library set to modern songs for the Halloween season.  Songs like Thriller and Somebody’s Watching Me played with Disney clips was a great combination.  I had forgotten about this completely until Jason reminded me of it last week.  Once I started watching it, I realized that I used to love this thing back in the day.  Click the link up there and go watch it.

I think… that while I’m talking about Halloween related songs, that I should most definitely mention that you should keep your eye open for our ’80s Halloween Music Video feature that is dropping this week.  You’re going to need a soundtrack for your Halloween, and we’ve got you covered.

I think… that I should also give you a heads up about our TRN Halloween Watchlist that is dropping too.  Are you one of the folks who just stay in on Halloween and chills in front of the TV?  Well if you are, we’ve got you covered too.  Watch for the post with the watchlist.  It’s a Halloween anthology for lack of a better term, but it’s three hours of retro Halloween goodness that you can just turn on and enjoy this Halloween night.

I think… that I need to make time in my busy schedule to watch Dolemite is My Name on Netflix starring Eddie Murphy.  I’m a fan of the original Dolemite movies starring Rudy Ray Moore, and I think it will be interesting to see how this movie comes off.

I think… that Jason and I do a lot of talking about streaming services on the podcast, and I’m surprised that I have yet to mention one of my favorite channels on Roku.  The Rasslin’ Channel.  If you’re a fan of old school pro wrestling…I mean OLD SCHOOL…look this up on the Roku Channel guide and give it a try.  It’s so great being able to go back and see all the great action from the territory days.

I think… that the Halloween season has been a blast here on TRN, and I’m really looking forward to presenting a whole lot of great Thanksgiving and Christmas features as the seasons roll on too.

I think… that if you missed the 2019 Retro-Daze Halloween Special this past weekend, you should certainly watch it now that it’s available on YouTube.  Tony never ceases to amaze me with his fantastic editing, and Adam always hits home runs with his RD character.  The show is always great, but when you add in The Crypt Keeper, this episode is the very best yet.  Check it out below, and I’ll see you next week.

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About Mickey Yarber 103 Articles
Sometimes referred to as The Retro Rambler...I was born in the '70s, grew up in the '80s, and came of age in the '90s. I love to share all the fun stuff from those years via articles and videos, and occasionally make un-needed appearances on various podcasts. I can also catch quarters off my elbow. Email to book me for your next corporate event.