FARGO - Many businesses enjoy celebrating a variety of holidays as a way to engage employees and have a little fun during the workweek. Halloween can be a tricky holiday to celebrate at work, depending on the industry and the nature of the work. Certain professions just don't lend themselves to dressing up as Darth Vader and eating hordes of candy all day (think police officers, paramedics, accountants and newscasters).
But for the companies that are able to embrace the holiday, celebrating can take many different forms. Here's a quick sampling of how businesses in the area revel in Halloween.
Home Builders Association of Fargo-Moorhead
With a small group of eight employees, the HBA invites everyone to dress up for the day and enjoy an office-wide potluck. While smaller groups have coordinated costumes in the past, this is the first year the entire group has planned a costume based on the theme of "Star Wars."
Amanda Ohlsen, director of accounting and records, says that the homebuilding industry is casual, so dressing up for the day is possible.
"The industry allows us to do this, but we're driving the idea that we're having fun at work," says Jenny Erickson, director of development and education. "It's part of who we are at the HBA. We want our members to have fun and come together. Plus, us having fun at work also helps them get to know us."
Discovery Benefits touts its fun culture often, so celebrating Halloween comes naturally to the company. Departments are invited to decorate their specific area in the two weeks leading up to Halloween, and last year, themes included "Toy Story," Batman and "Lord of the Rings."
Employees are invited to wear costumes and several awards are distributed, including Most Scary, Most Original and Most Elaborate. Other specific honors are added each year, says Aaron Tetzlaff, an employee relations specialist who also heads up the company's Culture Committee.
In addition, employees can bring their children to the office for trick-or-treating, and the company will provide them with glow sticks to help kids stay safe while out at night.
"My favorite part of the celebration is seeing all the employees get into the spirit of the holiday," Tetzlaff says. "It's nice to see the employees get into decorating and dressing up, and then seeing the kids come through and enjoy it. It definitely adds a spark to the office."
For years Sundog has been celebrating Halloween, but they call the party an Octoberween Celebration. The festivities this year were scheduled for Friday night, and employees and their plus ones were treated to a fun night of games and food.
A costume contest is a favorite event, with awards given for store-bought and homemade outfits, says Dani Krolak, marketing coordinator and Culture Club leader. Winners receive gift cards to local restaurants or stores, and bragging rights, of course.
"It's a good way to get to know your team members and their family or friends," Krolak says. "We become each other's family at work that it's really fun to get to know the entire family."
The Octoberween Celebration isn't family-friendly, because Sundog recognizes that not everyone is at the same point in their lives, Krolak says. Children are invited to trick-or-treat around the office on Oct. 31, and the company hosts several other events throughout the year where families are invited.
The Halloween celebration is a favorite event among employees, and about half of the 80 people in the Fargo office typically show up, with a few additions possible from its St. Louis Park office.
"Larger events like this are usually long-standing traditions," Klovak says. "It's fun to see those traditions live on this long."
NDSU Volunteer Network and Residence Life
Three years ago, a student working with the Volunteer Network suggested that the group host a fall service project that involved the larger community. Thus, Boo! At NDSU was born.
The event, which was held Thursday, featured approximately 20 student organizations, fraternities and sororities hosting a carnival booth with children's games or crafts. The Volunteer Network partnered with Residence Life to offer trick-or-treating to participants this year, says Hailey Goplen, assistant director for civic engagement. Last year 200 children came to the free event with their parents.
"At NDSU, we focus on building relationships with the community and connecting students with the larger community," Goplen says. "This event is a service we can provide and it's a way of giving back and opening our doors."
In addition, the event offers children and their parents an opportunity to come on campus and interact with college students, who often enjoy the evening as much or more than the kids who attend, Goplen says.
"The word I hear a lot is 'fun,' " she says. "Many NDSU students are focused on service and volunteer work, but transportation to other nonprofits can be hard to come by. This (event) is how they can give back and serve but on campus."
NDSU Computer Science Department and Information Technology Division
This Halloween marks the 20th annual United Way auction and bake/book sale hosted by NDSU's computer science and IT departments. In that time, the departments have raised more than $23,000 for United Way of Cass-Clay, with a goal of raising $2,000 just this year.
The departments gather donations from across the campus, stockpiling the items in offices until the day of the sale. Items are listed online so those interested can preview what will be available. Donations range from home decor to books to clothing and jewelry. One year, a unicycle garnered the largest bid.
"The sale brings people together in a collaborative environment and is a way to give back to United Way," says Cathy Hanson, an IT workforce analyst and one of the founding members of the committee.
Anyone coming to the sale is welcome to dress in costume, and the planning committee coordinates a group costume each year. (The group also competes in the NDSU Bookstore's costume contest and has won it for the past eight years.) While advertising for the sale happens only on campus, the event is open to the public.
"It's a good way to support the community and we have a lot of fun doing it," says Janet Stringer, IT asset management coordinator and another founding member of the planning committee.
The silent auction runs 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 31, on the balcony in the Quentin Burdick Building (formerly the IACC). The bake/book sale takes place on the main level of the building during the same time. Most silent auction items ask for a $1 minimum bid, with a majority of items selling for $20 to $30, Hanson says.