Southern Lanes Brings Bowling Green Together for Halloween

by | Sep 2023

AS THE crisp October breeze embraces Bowling Green, children in the suburbs go from door to door collecting king-sized candy bars and comparing costumes. Those closer to town or without a neighborhood to roam rely on a hidden gem for Halloween fun — the Southern Lanes Trick or Treat. 

Now located on Scottsville Road, Southern Lanes has been a Bowling Green staple since 1984. The family fun center offers a range of kid-friendly activities, including 34 bowling lanes, batting cages, miniature golf, billiards, laser tag, bumper cars, and a redemption arcade. Not to mention they’re equipped with a full lounge and snack bar. But come October, the venue undergoes a bewitching transformation into Bowling Green’s very own Halloweentown, complete with vendors, inflatables, food trucks, local businesses handing out treats, and more. The best and most unusual part? It’s free to attend.

Now in its ninth year, the Southern Lanes Trick or Treat had humble beginnings. Marketing Director Demi Litten’s vision was to create a community event at the facility that didn’t require families to spend any money. 

“I was trying just to let them know that we exist — realize that there’s something in Bowling Green that offers safe, fun stuff for kids to do,” Litten said. “I know we don’t have much, so it was just a way to bring people here that didn’t know we were here.” 

Photographed by Amanda Guy.

The first year, Southern Lanes hosted a few vendors, a costume contest, and fair-type games for about 35 to 50 trick-or-treaters inside between the bowling lanes. As word got around about the free, family-friendly event, more and more people trickled in. And as fate would have it, the onset of COVID-19 brought about an unexpected twist. 

In 2020, Southern Lanes decided to move the event outdoors, adhering to social distancing guidelines by spacing vendors out by 6 feet and ushering people in one group at a time. Around 600 people showed up, likely looking for a holiday reprieve from the roaring global pandemic. Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, the event’s outdoor setting allowed Southern Lanes to accommodate even more vendors, activities, and food trucks, leading to a remarkable surge in attendance. Last year, 1,500 to 2,000 people joined the festivities, Litten said. 

“I didn’t expect it to get as big as it is,” Litten said. “I mean, I hoped that it would, but I didn’t think that it would be this big in the short amount of time.” 

Now, dozens of local vendors hold pop-up shops. Last year Southern Lanes had a live band for the event and had a free petting zoo. Litten’s daughter performed “Thriller” with her class from Soaky Dance Arts dance studio at the event. 

Photographed by Amanda Guy.

“It kind of gives the parents something to do as well if they wanna shop,” Litten said. “And then we’re able to support other local small businesses.” 

Throughout the day, Southern Lanes offers wristbands at a special rate of $20 each. The wristband grants unlimited access to bowling, laser tag, bumper cars, and miniature golf. Regardless, the Halloween festivities remain free of charge. Local vendors sell products, distribute coupons, and hand out gifts and candy to trick-or-treaters. Litten said supporting local businesses is meaningful to her because Bowling Green is where she grew up and because Southern Lanes itself is a small local business. 

“It’s important to me because that’s what we are,” Litten said. “I think people forget that because we are such a large building with a lot of things to do, but we’re still a local small family business.” 

With fond memories of Southern Lanes’ earlier days on Campbell Lane, Litten cherishes the sense of family and community that the bowling alley has always embodied. 

“I think growing up in a life like that, I know so many people,” she said. “In Bowling Green, it’s like you never meet a stranger. And it takes a village. My village is in Bowling Green.” 

On Sunday, Oct. 29, Southern Lanes will once again be brimming with small-town Halloween spirit at the ninth annual Trick or Treat. Grab your costumes and visit from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. to experience a quintessential Bowling Green holiday tradition. GN

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