On Friday, Oct. 29, South Texas Health System Children’s held its first ever drive-thru festival — open to the entire community — complete with a grand illuminated forest at the entrance, dozens of Halloween-themed booths, South Texas Health System staff and community members in spooktacular costumes, and of course plenty of treats for the whole family.
There’s no denying that Halloween is one of the most popular holidays for children throughout the Rio Grande Valley, and it’s certainly a favorite at South Texas Health System Children’s. Since opening its doors in 2006, the hospital has hosted an annual Children’s Fall Festival to bring the community together during the week of All Hallows’ Eve.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, plans for 2020’s large-scale event had to be canceled due to safety concerns. But with the rate of COVID-19 vaccine immunizations at nearly 80% in Hidalgo County and a better understanding of how to minimize the risk of becoming infected, the hospital decided to host its Children’s Fall Festival this year — with a twist.
“South Texas Health System Children’s commitment to the Rio Grande Valley goes well beyond providing quality, compassionate care to our pediatric patients. It’s about being an integral part of the community, and our Children’s Fall Festival is one of our favorite ways to give back,” says Lance Ames, Chief Executive Officer, South Texas Health System Children’s and South Texas Health System Edinburg. “Halloween is a favorite holiday for kids, and we really missed being part of their holiday celebrations last year. While the COVID-19 situation has improved greatly since last year, we’re not out of the woods yet. So we came up with this safe alternative.”
During the three-hour event, hundreds of cars drove through the STHS Children’s parking lot, stopping briefly in front of each Halloween-themed booth to collect treats and trinkets from festival participants – all from the safety of their vehicles. In addition to South Texas Health System facilities and departments, the parade route featured booths decorated by the Pediatric Comprehensive Care Clinic and other local pediatric clinics, as well as the Edinburg Scenic Wetlands & World Birding Center, the Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library and more.
“It’s truly been a treat to see the response to this year’s drive-thru Children’s Fall Festival,” says Tom Castañeda, System Director of Marketing and Public Relations, South Texas Health System. “We really wanted to create a safe and memorable Halloween experience for the children and families of the Rio Grande Valley, especially after the majority of last year’s holiday events had to be canceled due to the pandemic. Creating this drive-thru Halloween experience was a huge undertaking, and we’re thrilled with the overwhelming response and positive reaction from the community. A special thank you to the City of Edinburg and the Edinburg Police Department for helping make this first-ever drive-thru event a huge success.”
In addition to receiving enough treats and trinkets to fill their buckets and bags, the first 500 children to drive through the event received a limited edition STHS Children’s T-shirt.
Festival attendees were encouraged to bring five canned food items per car to be donated to the RGV Food Bank for its holiday food drive. In all, more than 1,500 cans were collected.