Several hundred youngsters turned out Friday night at the Pine Bluff Convention Center for the fifth annual Fall Festival, sponsored by the Pine Bluff Police Department.

Several hundred youngsters turned out Friday night at the Pine Bluff Convention Center for the fifth annual Fall Festival, sponsored by the Pine Bluff Police Department.


"I come every year," said Veronica Davis as she escorted several small children down the rows of tables that contained various types of candy. "I feel safer here than letting the kids go door to door. I love it."


Police Lt. Shirley Warrior, who is assigned to the police department’s community relations division and is one of the driving forces behind the annual event, said it "offers a safe environment and everybody always has a good time.


"We’ve got people that know us and they bring their kids back here every year," Warrior said. "It’s like a family."


Kayla Waters, 9, was enjoying the ring toss game and said this was the first time she had come to the fall festival.


"I’m looking to have some fun," she said.


Both Police Chief Jeff Hubanks and Assistant Police Chief Ivan Whitfield were on hand for the event, and when Hubanks was asked his role, said, "To stay out of the way and let the people that know what they’re doing do their job."


A year ago, Whitfield was decked out in costume, but this year was more casual, saying he "didn’t have time to go home and change."


In addition to free candy, there were also bounce houses, a variety of games, popcorn, cotton candy, drinks and hot dogs for those in attendance.


The Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services Department was also represented with its smoke house, and Fire Chief Shauwn Howell stopped in before heading off to an event at his church.


"I just came by to check but when I got here, my guys were already setting up," Howell said.


Sgt. Hosea Thompson, who is also assigned to community relations, said the annual event "gets bigger every year.


"This is an opportunity to give back to the community and it’s something for the kids to do that is safe," he said.


Warrior said the annual event would not have been possible without help from a number of volunteers and organizations, including Jefferson County Drug Court, the Criminal Justice Department at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and others.