The second floor of Riverside Town Hall was abuzz with elementary school students armed with black, orange, purple and green paints Saturday afternoon. With Scooby-Doo films playing in the background, St. Mary’s and District 96 students took part in an annual Riverside tradition but in a new way. Rather than paint the exteriors of local business windows on a chilly fall afternoon, as had been done in many previous years, students painted 1-foot by 2-foot sheets of white paper in the warmth of the town hall. These individual paintings will be displayed by local businesses in the week prior to Halloween and the week immediately after.
This annual event would not have occurred again this year were it not for Riverside-Brookfield High School junior Elliot Louthen. After the Riverside Public Schools PTA chose not to sponsor the event following some local business participants’ complaints about damaged windows last year, Louthen chose a new approach in order to keep window painting alive.
“Some business owners were tentative at first while others just wouldn’t get involved because they didn’t want to risk anything,” Louthen said about trying to keep local businesses involved. Louthen’s idea to have students paint on paper, with their names and schools in the bottom right-hand corner of the page, not only allowed for artwork to be returned after the first week of November, but also meant that nothing more severe or long lasting than tape would be used in business windows.
Before Louthen could get started in convincing local businesses he had to come up with a project plan. As an Eagle Scout candidate, Louthen chose to take up creating a new plan for window painting as his required community service project, which involved developing and submitting a detailed plan, complete with schedule, task list and budget, to his troop for approval. His plan also included a Web site, which he has made available for other Boy Scouts to use as a model for their own community service projects; he hopes it will be a useful tool for his fellow Riverside Boy Scouts to run the event next year.
Judging by the enthusiasm of parents at Town Hall Saturday, it is likely that there will be a popular demand for the event to be held again next year. “I love it! We’ll come every year if they have it,” said Richard Sandoval, Jr., whose second-grade son Christopher was painting a ghoulish scene, complete with red-eyed bats. Sandoval’s wife, Ariana, agreed, “It’s great because the kids finally get to use their paints – I don’t allow painting in the house,” she said of the often messy acrylic paints.
Window painting veteran Lindsay Hayes remarked, as her daughter Quincy painted a ghost scene, “This is much warmer and a little easier than painting outside!”
Louthen’s father, James, who helped his son with the event, also reminisced about previous years when he’d pass by as his children were painting in hats and gloves outside.
In addition to having his father help at the event, Louthen had six volunteers working with him at a time, with about 20 volunteers, some of whom were fellow Eagle Scout candidates, throughout the day to accommodate the approximately 150 painters.
While in previous years students painted directly on windows at the location their paintings were displayed, this year students will not know in advance at which businesses their paintings will be displayed. The Riverside Chamber of Commerce is encouraging students to come trick or treat at the participating local businesses, and find their artwork, on Friday, Oct. 30 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.