TOTS costumes, candy, vendors and volunteers score big in Riverview
By LINDA CHION KENNEY
Another Trick or Treat Street is in the books for the Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce, undaunted by the light and heavy rains that mixed with sunshine at the 31st annual event at Riverview High School on Oct. 26.
Spirits failed to dampen, even when the rain slid in sideways, with attendees huddled under tents waiting for the next burst of sunshine.
“It was an excellent event,” said Valentino Hart, a team director for the nonprofit Thunder Bay Volleyball Academy, a new chamber member. “When the rain came down it was like a slight intermission, and when people huddled under the tents, they got to know each other better. It was a great time and a great experience being able to share information about what we have to offer.”
Indeed, a major TOTS draw is the opportunity for businesses and nonprofits to showcase their products and services — and for high school students to earn community service hours. The chamber presents the event annually in partnership with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation.
TOTS “gets us out in the community, and we get to see the families and friends we see in our store every day,” said Calybe Dix, store manager of the Lake St. Charles Winn-Dixie supermarket in Riverview. “The Riverview chamber does a great job, and every year they learn from what works and what doesn’t work to make it even better.”
TOTS happens “because of the people involved with it,” said Tanya Doran, an East Bay High graduate and the chamber’s longtime executive director. “We had more than 100 volunteers here and 90 booths. I’m always in awe of the size of the event and how it has grown.”
Kelly Coats, of Sport Clips Haircuts of Riverview, said the business has an annual TOTS presence for the community outreach it affords.
“It shows our community we are here for them,” Coats said. “We’re here to meet their needs, and we’re also here to help the community of Riverview. It’s home to us, too.”
Cathi Preston, wearing a “Queen” sash at the Krewe of the South Maruders float, issued a similar sentiment. “Kids have said to me, ‘I take a picture of you every year,’ ” Preston said. “It’s just a lot of fun to interact with everybody.”
Still, for the kids there’s nothing better than the bags and buckets full of candy they earn for simply being cute and outrageous, scary and sensational, in the costumes they showcase walking from booth to booth. Vendors are asked to bring enough candy to serve 4,000 kids.
There’s even opportunities to enter costume contests, and to earn one of nine booth-judging awards. This year’s honors went to Music Showcase (first place, overall); Riverview 14 GDX multiplex (original); Busciglio Smiles (kid-friendly); the Sophomore Steering club at Riverview High (most creative); Hillsborough Parks and Recreation (best use of material); Livingstone Academy (best artwork); Unleashed, at Riverview High (funniest); Christopher Ligori & Associates (coolest); and Winn-Dixie, Lake St. Charles, Riverview (scariest).
“People just went over and beyond,” said chamber board member Joe Eletto, a booth contest judge. “Every booth I looked at was kid-friendly, and I gave them all high marks on that.”
This year kids got an extra bonus thanks to Christopher Ligori & Associates, a law firm with offices in Tampa and Riverview. Its first year at TOTS, the firm stepped up in a big way, sponsoring the kid zone featuring a field of inflatables, which allowed attendees to jump and play for free.
“I love Riverview, I love what they stand for,” said Amber Pemberton, a TOTS law firm representative. “The chamber isn’t a place for me. It’s a feeling, a feeling of people encouraging others.”
TOTS attendee Amber Comber acknowledged the support goes both ways.
Dressed as a trio of dinosaurs, she and her husband Mike, along with their son Michael, hail from Apollo Beach. It was their second time at TOTS, having attended two years ago dressed as a trio of Ninjas.
“TOTS is just so much fun,” Amanda Comber said. “There’s tons of booths, tons of candy, and we always like supporting the local businesses.”