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Abbie Sawyer, a 20-year-old park event assistant at Memorial Park, picks up a young boy dressed as Spiderman at Memorial Park in Athens, Georgia on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. Memorial Park and Bear Hollow Zoo hosted “Boo at the Zoo,” an annual Halloween event for families, on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018, in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Rebecca Wright)

Families toted their kids around Bear Hollow Zoo on Oct. 25 from 5–8 p.m. for Boo at the Zoo, an annual halloween event. Toddlers ran around with trick-or-treat bags in hand while newborns held on tight to their parents.

Large inflatable monsters, such as a spider and a mummy, lined the path of the Bear Hollow Trail. Parents posed their children for pictures in front of the decorations and the enclosures.

Despite being surrounded by animals, the children’s sole focus was on the candy waiting for them at each stop.

Kids rushed to the booths that were set up in front of animal enclosures where kids had to answer questions about animals for the sweet prize.

Cynthia Johnson, a mom of a 2 year old, brought her little boy to Boo at the Zoo for the first time. She drove her family 45 minutes to attend the event.

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McKinsie Flippen, 5, and her grandmother, Anne Flippen, wait outside of the business offices at Memorial Park on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018 in Athens, Georgia. Memorial Park and Bear Hollow Zoo hosted “Boo at the Zoo,” an annual Halloween event for families, on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018, in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Rebecca Wright)

“I think this is safer than going door-to-door because I am not going to take him … to the spooky stuff and I think this is better for the little ones … because they are trying to make it fun for their age,” Johnson said.

Age-appropriate games and activities were prepared for the children. Attendees were welcomed with trick-or-treating. When they walked to the basketball court, inflatables, games and a cupcake walk was laid out before them.

John McKinney has been working for the Bear Hollow Zoo for 11 years. He acted as a DJ at the event and called out the winners for events such as the cupcake walk.

“The kids love the inflatables and [the cupcake walk because] everyone loves cupcakes,” McKinney said.

The cupcake walk in particular was a huge hit among the children. A circle of chairs lay out in the front of the basketball court. Children and parents circled the chairs until they were told to stop and a number was called out, rewarding the lucky winner with a cupcake.

Two inflatables sat on one side of the basketball court and the line for them stretched all the way to the other side. The bouncy house was littered with toddlers while parents waited patiently outside, and the inflatable slide sported a long line with parents standing out front filming their children.

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Sage DeGeorgia, 2, places a coin on the peg at Memorial Park in Athens, Georgia on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. Memorial Park and Bear Hollow Zoo hosted “Boo at the Zoo,” an annual Halloween event for families, on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018, in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Rebecca Wright)

A costume contest was held and Johnson’s son won a ribbon for he and his mother’s matching cow onesies. Some of the most common costumes among the kids were animals and superheroes, with many kids matching their moms. The ones that stood at the most were an inflatable T-Rex and a whole family dressed in a bee theme. The mother and child were dressed as bees while the father was dressed as a beekeeper.

Attractions and contests such as these bring in families all across the Athens area and surrounding towns.

“The last few years we have had a couple thousand [people attend], so we are kind of at capacity,” McKinney said. “Between parking and the size of the facility, we cannot hold a lot more people.”

The event brings in more people every year, especially people like Johnson and her son.

“We [saw an ad] on Facebook and thought [my son] would enjoy it because he loves animals, and for the first time experience … we will most definitely [come again next year],” Johnson said.

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