CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — On Wednesday, a Champaign County Halloween tradition finally returned for the first time since the pandemic. Market Place Mall reopened its doors for the Halloween Funfest.

Parents, kids and volunteers came dressed head to toe as their favorite characters for the 35th Funfest in Champaign. Storefronts in the mall got in on the fun as well.

“It’s thanks to so many volunteers. We get lots of students groups that come out and they run all the game booths. We have lots of staff working the event,” said Janet Soesbe, Community Program Manager. “And the most important thing is, this is a safe indoor alternative to certain Halloween events. Especially if trick-or-treating is kind of nasty outside, you can do trick-or-treating indoors here at the mall.”

Little Avatars and princesses paraded through the mall collecting all the treats they could. They were even able to win some prizes in the process.

“They get to get up on stage and show off their costumes. And I love all the creative handmade costumes. It’s one of my favorite parts, seeing how creative people are,” Soesbe said.

Organizers said bringing back the event was a treat, and not a trick. The last one was held in 2019 before the pandemic. While it wasn’t as big a turnout as in years past, they’re confident it’ll be back to normal next year.

“I think we’ll build back attendance. We used to get between three and 5,000 people at the event, so hopefully people will find out it’s coming back and next year we’ll do even better. But we’re super excited to do Halloween again,” Soesbe said.

The only thing missing from the event was a haunted house. Urbana and Champaign Park Districts said it freed up more space to add in more fun activities and kept storefronts filled.