On a cool Halloween evening, the Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland hosted its annual Harvest Festival.

After having been canceled for the last two years, the annual free event welcomed guests from Highland to Running Springs.

The festival was held to provide a safe venue to celebrate the fall harvest, while enjoying games and entertainment, according to Immanuel Baptist’s associate pastor Tracy Johnson.

“This festival is a community outreach for our church,” said Johnson. “We want people to come out and have a great time in a safe environment.

“We’ll be having people minister and share the gospel and pray with guests, should they want that.”

Johnson is glad that a sense of normalcy is returning to the community.

“This year, we see it as one of activities to coming back to normal. Even though we had the Fourth of July, this festival is more open with less restrictions.”

Game booths were spread across two baseball fields.

Johnson and the staff were expecting 5,000 to 6,000 people to attend the festival.

The Blake Aaron Band provided the entertainment. The band played music from Christian to rock.

Guitarist Blake Aaron was happy that the festival took place.

“It’s great to be playing live again, after not playing for two years,” said Aaron. “We hope that the Christian music that we play reaches people and speaks to them about God.”

Aaron’s band also played Top-40 songs.

Sophia Hager, from Running Springs, was a volunteer that ran a booth at the festival. Hager came dressed as Snow White.

“My mom made my skirt,” said Hager. “I’m very proud of my mom. She stayed up until 3 a.m. finishing it.”

Sophia’s mother Kim Hager is grateful for what the church offers.

“We had major fires around 2007, and our family was displaced,” said Kim Hager. “We still managed to attend the festival and Pastor Zinn was here.

“He handed our full-size candy bars to everyone. That meant a lot to me and my family. This church really has a heart for their community.”

Tangie Davis came from North San Bernardino with her nephew King Green.

“I think this festival is great,” said Davis. “I’m happy that the kids get to come out to a safe place and have fun. It’s really nice that the church did this, because the kids didn’t get to do this last year.

“I like that the church is giving back to the community by having events like these.”

Scott Groezinger brought his family to enjoy the evening at Immanuel Baptist.

“I’ve been coming to this church and festival since I was four-years-old,” said Groezinger. “I’m glad that we are able to come back, again, as a community.

“We’re here to have fun and share fellowship and to hear God’s word if we’d like to.”

Groezinger brought his wife Meagan and his three sons, Timothy, Eli and Levi.

The two baseball fields had game booths, inflatable bounce houses, food vendors and a live band.

There were also rings of folded chairs scattered throughout the fields if anybody needed prayer or cared to hear the word of God.

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