On Halloween, it’s customary to see little costumed ghosts and goblins tromping down darkened sidewalks, crunching through autumn leaves on their way to trick-or-treat at their neighbors’ doorsteps.

Now it’s also just as common to see youngsters gathered in parking lots, getting their annual haul of sugary goodies from decorated open car trunks.

So-called trunk-or-treat events are becoming more popular in central Maine as an alternative to having children out and about on Halloween.

In Oakland, the Police Department and organizers are combining the town’s Halloween parade with a trunk-or-treat at Atwood Primary School. The parade starts at 5 p.m. Saturday at Williams Elementary School on Pleasant Street and goes through downtown Oakland, where business owners usually hand out candy.

Kathy Paradis, a deputy town clerk and one of the event organizers, said Oakland did a trunk-or-treat event a couple years ago and parents asked for it again this year. Parents said they liked the idea of having their children in a supervised space more than combing the neighborhoods.

“They thought it was a better idea and thought it was much safer than going door-to-door,” Paradis said. The town usually gets 200 to 300 children and is expecting up to 30 vehicles. People who want to set up a trunk can call the Oakland police to register.

Oakland police Capt. Rick Stubbert said the department organized the parade as a substitute for going door-to-door.

“Not to say that trick-or-treating isn’t safe; it’s just an alternative,” Stubbert said.

Every year, the Police Department reminds people to watch out for the crowds of children out and about in town. There are some “inherent dangers” of lots of children walking around at night without reflective clothing, not least of which is getting hit by a car.

“That’s our biggest fear,” Stubbert said.

In Madison, organizers are hoping Saturday’s trunk-or-treat is even bigger than it was last year.

“It was overwhelmingly successful last year. It was beyond our expectations,” said Shawna Albert, who co-coordinated the event.

The trunk-or-treat will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the playground next to Madison Junior High School. Residents at the nearby Maplecrest Rehabilitation and Living Center also will open their doors for trick-or-treaters on Halloween.

There are 21 trunks this year, double the amount last year, including those to be set up by the Somerset Sheriff’s Office and local businesses. About 600 children came through last year, so they’re planning for up to 800 this year, Albert said.

Parents like the premise because it is safe, well-lit and supervised, and all the trunk owners have to register. Not just anyone can come in, set up and start handing out candy, Albert said.

She was concerned originally that the event might pull some children away from traditional neighborhood trick-or-treating, but so far, she hasn’t heard any negative comments, Albert added. In fact, the trunk-or-treat event draws children from other towns, and some then go door-to-door in Madison.

“By that point, you have a pretty big bag of candy,” she said.

The Winslow Baptist Church has been holding a trunk-or-treat for almost a decade, said Robin Walker, the church’s administrative assistant. The event started with church members but expanded and moved over the years.

For the last five years, the church has set up from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Halloween night at the Dallaire Street park.

Church members provide the trunks, candy and games. Walker estimates that about 300 children come through each year. Last year, they added a bouncy castle that the church is bringing back this year, Walker added. Some families come and stay the whole time and others breeze through on their way to hit other trick-or-treating spots, Walker said.

“It made it much bigger, much better attended because there is more room there,” Walker said.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire

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