STOW – It's a huge Halloween party, it's free and it’s the first time the party has come to Stow.

The DeBord 24th Annual Halloween Festival is Oct. 5 from noon to 9 p.m. at Oregon Trail Park, 2905 Graham Road near Fishcreek Road.

The family friendly community festival is open to the public and visitors are encouraged to come in costume.

"It's a wholesome family event," said Claude DeBord, founder of the festival that began in his Akron backyard.

DeBord said he got the idea from "The Wonder Years" in an episode where they had a street block party, something he had never experienced.

"I wanted an annual event that neighbors could look forward to," he said. "When I started having a Halloween party in my back yard, I invited the neighbors. I wanted to do an annual traditional event that families could go to and for all ages."

Trick or Treat for kids will begin at noon and last until vendors run out of candy. More than 100 vendors will be selling food and unique items. Bands and musical performers will provide entertainment on three stages.

"Three different performance areas will go on simultaneously so they can choose where to go," DeBord said.

Sandwich boards will list performers at each stage and visitors can ask questions at the information booth in the building, he said.

In addition to music, visitors can enjoy a comedy routine, a vaudeville variety show, Chapparells Baton & Drum Corps and TV celebrities Little John and the Son of Ghoul. Other performers include the Roller Derby Girls, The Highland Games, Unda Ground Wrestling, Zahand’s Martial Arts, hayrides and more. 

A pizza eating contest and costume contest for kids and adults is scheduled at 6 p.m.

DeBord said he looks for costumes that are different and not seen at other festivals.

The city of Stow is a co-sponsor of the event that has been in Akron for 23 years and has moved from DeBord's back yard to a VFW hall, Hardesty Park, Lock 3 Park and Derby Downs.

For the last 10 years, the city of Akron had a grant program that helped to fund the free event but the program was phased out last year, DeBord said. He began looking around for a site for this year's festival.

DeBord said he met Stow Mayor John Pribonic when he was the manager of the Manchester Road Acme where he would drop off fliers for the event. Director of the Parks & Recreation Department Linda Nahrstedt also knew of the festival.

"They were aware of the event before I talked to them and they were on board," DeBord said.

Mayor Pribonic and Nahrstedt said they were excited to bring the event to Stow.

"We are thrilled to bring this longstanding event to Stow and are already looking forward to all the fun that will be had by our community and surrounding communities," Pribonic said.

"It is free and open to the public," Nahrstedt said. "There will be all kinds of spooky fun. There will be trick or treating, hay rides, comedy, games, vendors, food trucks, a pizza eating contest and much more. I hope our community will embrace this wonderfully fun event and dress up in costume in the spirit of the season."

DeBord, 47, started the event when he was 23 and has been doing the festival for half his life.

"Ideally my kids will take it over," he said. 'But the city of Stow has been a tremendous help this year."

"The festival has become a very time consuming hobby but the wonderful people I have met over the years, the reactions and compliments have made it worth it," he said.

Recently, DeBord received a message on the web site from someone who said they come every year because it's their family tradition.

"That's what motivates me," he said. "Someone made a tradition out of our event. It was really cool."

Each year it gets bigger but people reach out to DeBord, and he has sponsors and people perform for free because it’s a community event.

"I had to approach them when it was smaller, but it gets easier when people reach out to me," he said.

Sponsors include the Haunted Schoolhouse, Chippewa Lake Slaughterhouse, Haunted Laboratory, Lifetime Brake & Tire, Concrete Works, Sit Means Sit Dog Training, Smith's House of Carpet, Timeline Construction, Wash Works Express Car Wash, Wayside Furniture, Kenmore Family Dental and Ghoul Bros. Scream13.com

DeBord said 5,000 to 8,000 visitors are expected throughout the day depending on the weather. Anyone who wants to volunteer to set up and decorate on Oct. 4 from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m or help with visitors and cleaning up trash the day of the event, can call DeBord at 330-730-7163. They also need volunteers in costumes to participate in a scene or battle in the distance for riders on the hayride to enjoy.

More information is available at www.debordhalloweenfestival.com or FunInStow.com

Reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at 330-541-9434 or lfreeman@recordpub.com