West York comes together to heal for Halloween

Alyssa Pressler
  • The community came together for a fall festival in the wake of the former mayor's resignation.
  • The festival was thrown thanks to donations from businesses and organizations in the area.

It's been a tumultuous few weeks for West York, whose mayor's racist Facebook posts resulted in national media attention and his ultimate resignation.

Then, when the church that usually holds the borough's fall festival decided to back out amidst the controversy, Carla Christopher, regional coordinator for Put People First, decided to step in and give the community a much-needed safe space to heal.

She reached out to Megan Feeser, Downtown Inc's marketing coordinator, and Alexandra Dwyer, founder of The Parliament Arts Organization, to help put on the event. In one afternoon, they called as many people in the York area as they could to ask for donations and help.

"It was just that easy," Christopher said with a laugh. People in the area lined up to be a part of Hallo-We Together and show their support for West York.

There was a diverse turnout of people taking advantage of the fun offered Monday evening in the borough's Shelly Park before they went trick-or-treating. Donna Watkins, The Reading Bug, was there in full costume to hand out free books to kids and play other reading games with them. From 5 to 8 p.m., there were face-painting stations, martial arts demonstrations, a photo booth, bubbles, police officers, live music and a fire truck that dumped candy from its ladder for the children.

Mateo Santos, 2 of Springettsbury, sports his T-Rex costume while trick or treating at the Hallo-WE Together Fall Festival at Shelly Park in West York , Monday, October 31, 2016.  John A. Pavoncello photo

"Our children are watching everything we do," Watkins said, pausing momentarily to tell a little girl dressed as a cowgirl that she looked marvelous. "When they see unity, they know they're a part of it."

Feeser said that many of the vendors and volunteers at the event were from York City, letting West York know that they are all a part of the same community.

Halle Eaton, an 11-year-old West York resident, her twin sister, Morgan Eaton, and their 9-year-old brother, William Phillips, were all fans of the candy, all of which was donated by various local businesses. The children attended with their mother, Emaline Metherell, who was drawn to bring the family because the event sounded like a safe place to have fun.

"It's good for the community," Metherell said. "It's nice to bring everyone all together."

New Mayor Shawn Mauck, who took over the position Oct. 21 after serving as the borough council president, was  at the event. He watched his twin sons, William and Dominick, as they had their faces painted and said that it is quite an honor to be mayor of a "fantastic" borough.

"When we come together, we are stronger together," Mauck said, pointing to the festival going on around him. "It proves to the rest of the world that this is what we're about."

Councilman Brian Wilson also was  in attendance. Wilson said he no longer has kids young enough to trick-or-treat, but he wanted to show his support for the borough and help show others what the borough is "really about." He hopes that the event will continue to grow each year.

"There's no hate here," Wilson said. "We have to respect one another."

Harmony Breen, 8 left, and Hashkan Stolla, 9, both of West York, make pipe cleaner spiders while attending the Hallo-WE Together Fall Festival at Shelly Park in West York , Monday, October 31, 2016.  John A. Pavoncello photo

Christopher's goal for the evening was to provide the community with some healing, fun and candy, and everyone there agreed it was a treat. She said she hopes this is the first step toward a change in the borough's culture.

"The most important thing to take away is that it'd be easy and tempting to say 'We got the mayor replaced, mission accomplished,' but that's not it," Christopher said. "We have to make sure this is a change of the whole system, a change of the whole town. ... I'm glad people came out, but I'm going to need them to keep coming out."