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U.Va. celebrates Halloween with its annual Trick-or-Treating on the Lawn event

Local families join Lawnies and other students for Halloween fun on the Lawn

There are 54 Lawn rooms and approximately 70 student organizations that hand out candy to young Trick-or-Treaters every year.
There are 54 Lawn rooms and approximately 70 student organizations that hand out candy to young Trick-or-Treaters every year.

University students welcomed a stream of witches, warlocks, pirates and princesses of all ages in the annual Trick-or-Treating on the Lawn event. On a chilly Hallween night, young Trick-or-treaters lined the Lawn in search of treats from 5 to 7 p.m following a week packed with other spooky activities. 

TOTOL first started in 1987 when Lawn residents welcomed Charlottesville community members to the University for Halloween festivities. Since then, this event has become an annual tradition that families continue to participate in and look forward to year after year. 

This event is hosted by residents of the Lawn, Range and Pavilions, and organized by Cyrena Matingou, senior resident of the Lawn and fourth-year College student. With 54 Lawn rooms and approximately 70 student organizations that hand out candy to young Trick-or-treaters every year — there are plenty of treats to go around. 

Laughlin Ryan, Lawn resident and fourth-year College student, handed out candy at TOTOL for the first time this year. She dressed in a bright yellow banana costume to appeal to the many kids coming to her Lawn room.

“Seeing all the little kids’ costumes is so cute and just getting to engage with the community in general is awesome.” Ryan said. “We have all this space and getting to use it for something for the community is really cool.”   

Little ones dressed in classic pumpkin costumes wove in and out of the brick pathways, crossing paths with older children dressed as Harry Potter, Batman or firemen. Some families went all out in creativity, including a trio with a baby dressed as a bagel and two parents in Bodo’s Bagels employee attire — a Charlottesville classic.

One dressed-up duo, Christina Green and Olivia NcNulty — first-year graduate students with the U.Va School of Medicine — wore a costume of Corona beer and Tortilla chips, accompanied by puppies in matching outfits. The pair said they have been looking forward to TOTOL for a long time and even bought their costumes a month in advance to prepare for this event. 

“I love seeing all the costumes, and it's nice to be around so many people,” McNulty said. “There's a lot of creativity — things I've never seen before.”

Green and McNulty were not the only ones who brought along their furry companions — many other dogs joined in on the fun dressed in their best costumes. Earlier in the week the University Programs Council — a student group that puts on student programming for the University — hosted Puppies and Pumpkins. During the event, students joined together on the South Lawn to paint pumpkins, drink apple cider and play with puppies from local shelters. 

Third-year graduate Medical student Clayton Grundvig and his wife Rachel Grundvig also expressed enthusiasm over the many unique attendees. They also took part in this creativity with a group costume dressed as a bear and a beekeeper, with their baby son suited up as a bee. 

“We came here in 2021 and there's been a gradual hesitation with COVID to have any kind of event so it's been fun seeing these community events come back,” Rachel said. “[Events like this] do a lot to make you feel like a part of Charlottesville. Definitely for somebody that's a transplant to the area, it means a lot.”

Trick-or-Treating on the Lawn was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19. The Halloween tradition successfully returned last year with one of the highest attendance rates in the history of this event. Attendance remained high this year with thousands of people gathered on the Lawn. 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, TOTOL ran from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. This year, however, organizers moved the event to a 5 p.m. start after an originally planned start of 6 p.m., citing safety and accessibility concerns. The new in-between time allows for more light during the event, but also allows working parents time to attend.

Following TOTOL, students and community members alike were able to observe The Great Rotumpkin, U.Va. Arts projections of scary pumpkins, dancing skeletons, ghosts and ghouls onto the Rotunda from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. UPC partnered with U.Va. Arts to have various activities and treats during the nightly projection running from Oct. 27 to Oct. 31.

Beyond current students and Charlottesville community members, many University alums return to grounds to celebrate this tradition with their families. One such Class of 2012 Alumnas Rachel Hobbs brought her husband and young son to TOTOL for the first time this year. 

“[This event is] very cheerful and very generous.” Rachel said. “It’s such a great option, I think, for Charlottesville and the community to come and eat candy and celebrate Halloween together.”

Nadia Cempre, the director of academic operations for the School of Education, attended this event with her two sons. She said she’s made it a tradition to bring her kids to TOTOL because she enjoyed this event herself in her years as an undergraduate. 

“I work at U.Va. and I was also a student at U.Va.,” Cempre said. “I just never left. When I was an undergrad here, all I ever wanted was to bring my kids one day and so I’m doing it now.”

Another long standing tradition at the University, Hauntings on the Hill — hosted by Brown College — welcomes the community for a haunted house fully acted and staffed by Brown students. The proceeds for this year’s event were donated to the Haven, an affordable housing resource in Charlottesville. 

The University will continue to offer fall events through November, including CultureFest on Nov. 4, which will feature performances from CIOs and free food and merchandise. The upcoming Family Weekend Nov. 3 to Nov. 4 also offers a chance for families to come together on Grounds for more fall fun.