Growing up, Vicksburg native Vivian Collins helped the family business by inserting scores of individually painted thumbtacks into styrofoam eggs to form scale-like patterns.
Her parents, Donna and Michael Collins, are artists who operate “Dreams of Fancy,” which specializes in fashioning decorative dragon eggs that the Collins family regularly sells at conventions across Mississippi. For the process, Michael would lay out as many as 300 thumbtacks for a single egg, all of which Donna would paint before Vivian arranged them.
Later in her childhood, Vivian Collins learned about cosplay, a practice that involves people dressing as characters from varying media, often at conventions like the ones where Dreams of Fancy sells its dragon eggs. Hobbyists frequently craft their costumes themselves, a skill in which Vivian’s father is familiar. Since he was a teenager, Michael Collins has been actively involved in and making his own costumes for live-action role-playing, or “LARPing,”a type of interactive role-playing game in which participants portray characters through physical action.
Watching her father at work and seeing photographs of cosplayers online inspired Collins to make costumes for herself, and she got her first chance to do so when organizers for the Huntsville Comic and Pop Culture Expo in Huntsville, Ala., invited her parents to open a vendor booth in 2017.
Collins, who was 12 at the time, fortunately already had a costume on hand that she had made herself a few months prior for Halloween of the character D.Va from the video game “Overwatch.” Her challenges in making a costume for herself were somewhat unique; due to health problems since birth, Collins has used a wheelchair all her life.
“You don’t really see much representation of popular characters with disabilities or who are in wheelchairs, so a big part of the challenge for people like me is figuring out how best to make a costume of a character who isn’t in a wheelchair work for you,” Collins said. “A big part of it for me was learning to make a costume out of everyday objects and upsize them into costume pieces that worked for me.”
In the years that followed, she became an active member of Mississippi’s cosplay and convention scene, which is especially active during October, Collins said. As October 2022 approached, Collins learned through several Facebook and Instagram groups of a local event that Port Gibson native Colie Hollowell was organizing in Vicksburg called “Cosplay for a Cause.” What caught Collins’ attention was that the event would benefit Children’s of Mississippi, a hospital in downtown Jackson where she has undergone six major surgeries since age 2.
“The first surgery I had done there involved two malignant tumors that had developed inside a benign cyst on my spine,” Collins said. “The cyst had actually encased the tumors and prevented them from spreading, which doctors said was a miraculous turn of events that let them remove them. I’ve been back there numerous times since then and gotten to see the people there make miracles happen every day, so I wanted to do anything I could to support it.”
Colie Hollowell, who has been involved in the Mississippi cosplay scene for roughly two-and-a-half years, decided to hold the inaugural charity fundraiser on the first day of October, a month that is nearly synonymous with costume-creation given the preparations many make for Halloween.
“My goal in starting Cosplay for a Cause was to have this be an annual event benefiting a different charity each year, with Children’s of Mississippi being the first I wanted to do something for,” Hollowell said. “Many of my cousins and other family members have been treated there, so I was glad to be able to give something back on behalf of what they’ve done for me and other Mississippians.”
Dressed as Velma from the Scooby-Doo franchise, Hollowell welcomed guests inside Picture This Selfie Studio in Vicksburg, Miss., where Picture This owner Larry Walker stood by ready to take photos of attendees alongside Vicksburg native Jessica Slade of Slade Photography and Hollowell’s mother, Racheal Hollowell, who owns Bella la Vida Photography. Hollowell also invited vendors of all sorts from across the state to sell a variety of wares.
Concurring events that weekend such as Louisiana Comic-Con and the Vicksburg Flea Market contributed to a somewhat smaller turnout than Hollowell had expected, but Hollowell, her collaborators, and the 50 or so cosplayers who attended helped raise $1,040 for Children’s of Mississippi.
“When I went to Cosplay for a Cause, I was actually surprised to see how many people turned up for the first year of a very small event,” Vivian Collins said. “The first year is always going to be shaky for an event like this, especially since many cosplayers tend to be wishy-washy in some sort of way, in my experience.”
“I got into cosplay both as a form of self-expression and out of wanting to be part of a community that represented something bigger than myself,” she added. “That’s just what I saw on display there, with local people turning out to support a wonderful cause that is especially important to me.”
Guests partook in live music and shopping between having their pictures taken. Even the vendors got in on the fun, Hollowell said, swapping business cards and conversing with one another as the event progressed. Collins’ attendance, though, was one of Hollowell’s personal highlights of the day, she said.
“Vivian actually reached out to me before the event and told me she was coming, which had me so excited,” Hollowell said. “She does so much to raise awareness for cosplayers like herself who are in wheelchairs or have other disabilities. Seeing her there dressed as Belle from ‘Beauty and the Beast’ made my day and made me want to do even more to grow my event for next year. I want this to be an event that’s about the whole community rather than just cosplayers.”
Hollowell is far from the only Mississippian getting into the Halloween spirit this year in the name of benefitting a good cause. This October will be filled with spooky fun that will also raise money for everything from children’s education to pets and local sports. Beyond fundraisers, a number of other events and activities will also be going on across Mississippi this Halloween season. From costumed runs, parades or spooky brunches to movie screenings, haunted houses, fall festivals and trick-or-treating opportunities, Mississippians will be able to find plenty of fun that suits them this All Hallows Eve.
Read on for a list of Halloween-inspired events taking place across the state.
Buy a Boo Fundraiser and Witches Ride on the Coast
Children’s of Mississippi launched Buy a Boo in 2020, a program that runs throughout October and allows participants to purchase yard signs decorated with Halloween imagery and the hospital’s logo for $20 each to place in their, a friend’s or a neighbor’s yards. For each yard sign purchased, a Children’s of Mississippi patient will receive a “boo” sign for their room, too. The fundraiser benefits Children’s of Mississippi’s “Greatest Needs” fund, which serves whatever is the current greatest need among the hospital’s services.
“This event is a great way for people to support what is the only dedicated children’s hospital we have here in Mississippi,” Kathryne Lewis, development liaison for University of Mississippi Medical Center, said. “The fact that patients receive matching signs of their own means a lot for children who may not be able to take part in decorating their own yards during Halloween because they can’t be home for it.”
Signs are available to pick up Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the UMMC School of Medicine Building. For information, call 601-213-8054 or email [email protected].
Meanwhile, in downtown Ocean Springs, locals and visitors alike can attend a spooky parade during the 2022 Witches Ride held on Saturday, Oct. 29. Proceeds benefit Tired Dog Rescue, the Feral Feline Coalition of Ocean Springs and the Jackson County Animal Shelter.
The parade will feature costumed cyclists on broom-festooned bikes and pedestrians tossing out both candy and pet treats to onlookers. The parade begins in front of the Walter Anderson Museum and will make its way north down Government Street before ending at the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Arts Center. In addition to the parade, the event will include a costume contest, a witch cackling contest and other activities.
“Ocean Springs doesn’t generally see a lot in the way of trick-or-treating, so the parade makes for a fun alternative that also provides much-needed supplies for animal welfare,” event organizer Stephanie Penderson said.
After the main festivities end, participants ages 21 and over may join the Witches Downtown Pub Crawl, which will move between the Mosaic Restaurant and Bar, the Lady May, Glory Bound, Ocean Springs Daiquiris, Murky Waters, Twin Fins Beer Room, The Office and Lost Spring Broom Company. Participants receive a card to collect stamps at each location and can enter to win a cash prize. Entry to the pub crawl is $10.
Hills Halloween Dog Jog, BARKtober Fest and Pumpkin Run
Over in Starkville, Hills Pet Nutrition is sponsoring a Halloween Dog Jog on Saturday, Oct. 22, to raise money for the Homeward Bound Project of Mississippi.
Homeward Bound is a nonprofit that students from the Mississippi College of Veterinary Medicine founded. The organization brings in stray cats and dogs and fosters them to veterinary students to care for them until they can be adopted.
“This fundraiser is an essential part of the project’s operations that helps MCVM students provide food and disease or parasite treatment these animals need so they can be nursed back to health before they’re adopted,” Hills representative Kasey Forton said. “Northeast Mississippi has a high demand for pets, and we want to give all of them the opportunities they deserve.”
The Dog Jog is a 5K run that begins at the main MCVM campus in Starkville. The event will also include a pet-costume contest, a Halloween-inspired raffle and more. Registration is $35 in advance or $40 on the day of the event. All participating pets must be kept on a leash at all times.
Greenwood will host its own Halloween-themed animal benefit in BARKtober Fest on Saturday, Oct. 22, which benefits the Leflore County Humane Shelter, which provides shelter and adoption services for cats and dogs in Leflore County. The event will feature hayrides, a bounce house, a haunted house, Halloween costume contests, face painting, yard games, a taco truck, live music and more. Later that evening, organizers will host an adult costume party beginning at 7 p.m.
State Games of Mississippi, a nonprofit organization that promotes amateur athletics and healthy lifestyles for Mississippians, is hosting a Pumpkin Run at Bonita Lakes Park in Meridian on Saturday, Oct. 15, beginning at 8:30 a.m. The annual event, which first launched around 2012, helps cover costs for sporting events that SGM organizes for children across the state.
The event is open to participants age 3 and up. Both the Mini-Pumpkin Run and Pumpkin Run will have separate age divisions with three prizes per division, along with a separate prize for best costume. Whichever school or cross-country team registers the most participants will also receive a $100 Walmart gift card. All participants will also receive a T-shirt and a free pumpkin.
“Our Pumpkin Run tends to bring in roughly 5,000 athletes to Meridian every year, which makes a huge impact toward promoting sports in the area,” State Games of Mississippi Executive Director Missye Dozier said. “It’s great to see kids taking part in a big parade of other athletes of all ages, often with a big fireworks show overhead. It helps them feel like they’re in the spotlight while they’re out there running.”
Registration for the Pumpkin run is $25 while registration for the Mini-Pumpkin run is $10. To register, click here.
Chick-fil-A Southaven Superhero Fall Festival
The third-annual Chick-fil-A Southaven Superhero Fall Festival takes place on Tuesday, Oct. 25, at the Landers Center in Southaven beginning at 4:30 p.m. The event benefits the Mid-South Genesis Grant Fund.
The Mid-South Genesis Community Development Corporation, an outreach ministry of Brown Missionary Baptist Church in Southaven, established the fund to help feed the homeless, provide education opportunities and revitalize poverty-stricken neighborhoods in Southaven.
The Superhero Fall Festival will feature photo-ops with heroes both fictional and real, including DC Comics and Marvel superheroes as well as representatives of the Southaven Police Department, Desoto County Sheriff Search and Rescue, firefighters from the city and other emergency-services personnel on site.
“Our goal with this event is to show kids that there are more heroes in the world besides the ones they see in ‘The Avengers,’” April Armstrong, catering director for Chick-fil-A Southaven, said. “We’ll have plenty of first responders and small businesses that work to help others out there passing out candy for the children and showing them what they do.”
Tickets for the event are $12 per person, which includes a Chick-fil-A boxed meal. Children under age 2 get in free. All attendees will be entered into a raffle in which two winners will receive free Chick-fil-A for a year.
Click here for more information or to purchase tickets.
Other October Festivities This Fall
Coastal Mississippians can also attend Bay St. Louis’ third-annual Boo in the Bay Parade, which takes place on Saturday, Oct. 22, beginning at 5:30 p.m. in Old Town Bay St. Louis. The parade will include decorated golf carts, jeeps and classic cars with riders throwing candy and Halloween trinkets to the attendees. For more information or register a vehicle for the parade, visit boointhebay.com.
The Bay Saint Louis Running Company will host the Cult Classics 5K on Saturday, Oct. 29, beginning at 8 a.m. The run begins and ends at Mockingbird Cafe (110 S. Second St.), with all contestants encouraged to come out dressed as their favorite cult-classic movie character. Registration is $35 per person and is available online here.
In nearby Gulfport, the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center will host its fifth-annual Witches’ Brunch on Saturday, Oct. 22, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The menu will include food from Half Shell Oyster House and The Rack House Steaks and Spirits. Organizers will also host a Halloween costume contest, and local artists will be on-site producing seasonal art for sale. Tickets are $100 per person, which includes brunch, cocktails with event glasses and a swag bag. For more information or to make a reservation, visit witchesbrunch.com.
Farther inland, Hattiesburg has a wide selection of events going on, beginning with Zoo Boo at the Hattiesburg Zoo. The event runs from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. every night from Friday, Oct. 21, through Sunday, Oct. 30. Guests will be able to enjoy food and drink specials, train and carousel rides, a petting zoo, marshmallow roasting, a Monster Mash Dance Party, Jeepers Creepers Keepers Animal Encounters, a Haunted High-Ropes Adventure Course and more. Tickets are $13 for ages 2 and up in advance and $15 at the gate and are available online.
On Friday, Oct. 14, the Historic Hattiesburg Saenger Theater (201 Forrest St.) will be hosting a screening of the cult-classic film “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” The festivities will begin with a pre-show block party on Forrest Street beginning at 6:30 p.m., with the show proper beginning at 8 p.m. The event will also feature a performance by Hattiesburlesque and a costume contest on the Saenger stage. Visitors can purchase movie prop bags to use during the show that include newspaper, water pistols, rubber gloves, noisemakers, toilet paper, champagne flutes, party hats and playing cards. Purchase tickets or learn more here.
That same weekend, Thomley’s Christmas Tree Farm (50 Hegwood Road) will host “Zombieburg” from Friday, Oct. 14 through Sunday, Oct. 16, and again on the subsequent weekends of Oct. 21 to Oct. 23 and Oct. 28 to Oct. 30. Zombieburg is a zombie-themed laser tag game in which 10 to 12 participants go through a guided trail with limited “ammo” (laser fire). For more information or to volunteer as a zombie, visit thehubhattiesburg.com/zombieburg.
In Laurel, Landrum’s Homestead and Village (1356 Highway 15 S.) will host a public fall festival on Saturday Oct. 15, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will feature pony rides, a pumpkin patch, an engine show, cake walks, wagon rides, funnel cakes, farm animals, gem mining, food vendors and more. Children will also receive a map upon arrival to take part in a scavenger hunt with prizes. Tickets are $10 each and are available online at landrumfallfest.eventbrite.com.
The Red Barnett Senior Center in Biloxi will host its eighth-annual Halloween Spectacular “Midnight Experiment” on Thursday, Oct. 27, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Biloxi Civic Center (578 Howard Ave.). The event will include a stage performance from the Dixie Hip Shakers, a costume contest, door prizes, vendor booths, music, dancing and more. Tickets are $100 each and are available online.
Delta State University’s Roy L. and Clara Belle Wiley Planetarium (1003 W. Sunflower Road, Cleveland) will offer a star-filled evening during its Spooky Skies Halloween event on Saturday, Oct. 22, beginning at 2 p.m. The event will include a live discussion about the Halloween sky and spooky events in the universe as well as a film screening—the film is still to be determined. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for children under the age of 12. For more information, visit deltastate.edu/planetarium.
Finally, the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Arts Center (1600 Government St.) in Ocean Springs is bringing two nights of spooky fun during “Spooky Springs @ The Scary C,” which takes place on Friday, Oct. 28 and Sunday, Oct. 29 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. both nights. The Ocean Springs High School theater students have created an ’80s thriller movie-themed haunted house for the event, which will also include lawn games, trick-or-treating, dancing and more. The school suggests a $5 donation this year for entry into the haunted house, with proceeds supporting the Ocean Springs High School theater department’s upcoming Scotland field trip. For more information, visit themaryc.art.
Haunted Houses, Parties, Trunk-or-Treat and More
For the brave and bold this Halloween season, plenty of haunted houses and spooky trails will be available to seek out, including Terror on the Coast in Gulfport, House of the Haunted Fields: Trail of Nightmares in Raymond, the Psycho Path in Ellisville, and others in Brandon, Meridian, Hernando and Lucedale.
Those looking to party on All Hallows Eve will find no shortage of venues across the state offering a creepy good time. Choice locations include the Halloween Extravaganza at Hal and Mal’s in Jackson, the Commodore Halloween Bash at the Bayou View Sportsplex in Gulfport, the Monster Mash at Latimer Community Center in Biloxi, the Great Pumpkin Party at Meridian Community College and more in Moss Point, Bay St. Louis, Natchez and Grenada, among others.
Crafters and creatives can find courses on building a haunted house with cookies at the INFINITY Science Center (1 Discovery Circle) in Pearlington, pumpkin-painting and selfie-taking at POSE Selfie Studio (10730 Factory Shop Blvd., Suite 730) in Gulfport and a Halloween-themed charcuterie workshop at CharCutie Tupelo (603 Clayton Ave.,Tupelo).
Since celebrating Halloween would not be complete without candy and costumes, kids across Mississippi will have their pick of trunk-or-treating events wherever they may be, including the 2022 Mississippi Wildlife Trunk or Treat in Coldwater, the Halloween Spooktacular Safestop in Oxford, Halloween off the Square in Hernando, the Halloween Fly-in in Kiln, Movie in the Park in Ridgeland, and various trunk-or-treat gatherings in towns like Oxford, Perkinston and Batesville, in addition to a number of other locally organized candy-distributing events.