A free family-friendly Halloween event held in the heart of Winchburgh has been deemed a huge success after it attracted more than 550 members of the local community, breaking last year’s attendance record.

Winchburgh Community Growing Group and Coffee By Nico teamed up to give the 1.5-acre community growing area within Auldcathie Park a spooky makeover for the event, which featured elaborate decorations, an interactive poltergeist tunnel, games, photo opportunities, a Dean’s Barber experience and a host of local food stalls. The West Lothian spooky season was in full swing as guests braved the rain to enjoy the event – with many getting into the spirit by dressing both themselves and their dogs in full costume to mark the occasion – and left with sweet treats and pumpkins.

The event was able to be put on for free due to financial support from McFarlane Joinery Services, Blueprint Design Solutions and Winchburgh Developments Limited, as well as public donations made via JustGiving and on the night. Lights were kindly donated by Scotia Events Services and Caro Contracts.

John West, co-founder and chair of Winchburgh Community Growing Group, said: “We’re committed to bringing the local community together and celebrating all that Winchburgh has to offer, and our Halloween event allowed us to do just that. We’re currently in a cost of living crisis and we’re very conscious that many people can’t afford to book tickets to Halloween events, or pay to take their children to visit pumpkin patches, so we wanted to create an incredible free event and experience for local people to enjoy. 

“There was a core team of volunteers who worked tirelessly for five weeks to make it all possible, and 22 helping the event run smoothly on the night at the forefront and behind the scenes. Seeing so many smiling faces on the night made it all worthwhile.”

Guests enjoyed experiences included a spooky polytunnel experience and labyrinth, games that gave people the chance to win a free pumpkin, hook-a-pumpkin from a 7500-litre rainwater-filled swimming pool, and beanbag toss.

Nicky McFarlane, owner of the Coffee by Nico kiosk in Auldcathie Park and McFarlane Joinery Services, said: “After reopening the coffee kiosk in Auldcathie Park two months ago, we have really felt welcomed in by the local community and our neighbours at Winchburgh Community Growing Group. After speaking with John about the free events the group hosts and the rationale behind this, so they are accessible to everyone, we knew this was something we wanted to be involved in. We all know too well the impact the cost of living crisis is having on everybody at the moment and to be a part of an event that is accessible and allows everyone within the community to come together was really amazing.  

“I was born and raised in the village and it’s brilliant to see how much the village has evolved. I think events like these help bring the community together and also give people something to look forward to without having to go outwith the local area. We are looking forward to hopefully being involved in many more.”

Winchburgh Community Growing Group was founded in 2018 after two residents came forward during Winchburgh Developments Limited’s consultation for the design of Auldcathie Park and suggested they could help connect and build a community of growers in the rapidly expanding village. Winchburgh Developments was keen to support their ambitious plans for local people to experience the physical and mental benefits that collective growing and volunteering can bring, and gifted the group the 1.5-acre area within the new 85-acre Auldcathie District Park to base their community growing from in 2021. Run by a group of dedicated volunteers, the growing group continues to host workshops and seasonal events throughout the year to benefit the local community.  

Penny Lochhead, Community, Sports and Greenspace Manager for Winchburgh Developments, said: “Here in Winchburgh we are so lucky to have the Winchburgh Community Growing Group volunteers and businesses such as Coffee By Nico who throw their hearts and souls into everything they do for the village. The Halloween event at Auldcathie Park was amazing to experience with so many people coming out in the rain to enjoy the spooky activities that were created for them in the park. There has always been a great sense of community spirit here in Winchburgh, and we’re proud that it has continued to grow with the expansion of the area. We can’t wait to see what they do for Christmas!”