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Friday, October 22, 2010

What is a Cake Walk?

“I’m new in town and I keep seeing articles about the Halloween Cake Walk. What is a cake walk?” This is one of Newton Falls’ most interesting community events, and one in which some of the Newton Falls Public staff have enjoyed participating.

We were able to inform the new resident that the cake walk is sponsored every year by the Kiwanis Club, it follows the community Trick or Treat, and is held on Broad Street between Canal and Center Streets. Participants purchase tickets and then walk through arches while music is playing. When the horn blows, those under an arch may select a cake from the many donated. The cakes are supplied by community groups who receive a percentage per cake of the evening’s proceeds for their organization. During the event, the Newton Falls High School Tiger Marching Band entertains and prizes donated by businesses and groups are awarded for costumes.

This question intrigued the library staff who began to wonder more about a cake walk. According to A Dictionary of Americanisms on Historical Principles (pg. 241), a cakewalk was “Orig. a parade or walk-around, poss. by Negroes, in which the reward for the fanciest steps was a cake. Now a walk in which those participating pay for the privilege of walking to music on a numbered floor, each one hoping that when the music stops he will be on a lucky number and thus receive a cake as a prize.” There is also more historical information online on the subject, but not much is readily available about specific community cakewalks.

To discover more about our local cakewalk, we contacted a member of our local Kiwanis Club and our Local History Room volunteer. The member informed us that the Newton Falls club began in 1924 and he thought their cake walk began around 1930. In searching the old volumes of the Newton Falls Herald, no mention was found before 1926. The headline on the front page of the October 28, 1926 edition announced Big Community Hallowe’en Celebration Saturday. That event was to be held on October 30, 1926, making this year’s celebration the 85th one. The article announced that there would be music by the Newton Falls Band under the direction of L. E. Price, cakes, costumes and “fine” prizes. Besides cash awards of $1-$3 for the best of certain costume types, there were also product prizes. This list included: Best George Washington, 1st prize – vacuum windshield cleaner and 2nd prize - rear view mirror donated by W. C. Liber and Son; Fattest Man, 1st prize - 25 lb. sack of sugar and 2nd prize - 24 lb. Occident Flour donated by O. C. Bedell; and Best Made-Up Man, 1st prize - 24 lb. sack of flour and 2nd prize - 6 bottles of catsup donated by Jack Davis.

In the October 16, 1930 Newton Falls Herald, the Kiwanis decided to hold their annual cake walk on the evening of October 31 at the location where the event is presently still enjoyed. Proceeds were to be donated to the Kiwanis Club fund for the care of underprivileged children. In the October 30 paper, one would assume due to the effects of the Depression, the club decided to devote the monies raised for the relief of the needy in the community. The cakes would be on display at the Bate Brothers real estate office on Broad Street.

For individuals interested in participating in this year’s event, the library has some wonderful resources to inspire a cake baker. Fantastic party cakes: 20 fun cakes to make and decorate by Allison Wilkinson has the Masquerade cake and A Walk on the Wild Side which has tiger stripes draped over it. If decorating a large cake seems daunting, try The Artful Cupcake: baking & decorating delicious indulgences by Marcianne Miller. For those wishing to encourage children to participate, the book Birthday cakes for kids: dozens of fun & creative cakes has Boo the Ghost, Jack-O-Lantern, and Webster’s Web, all which are sure to be Halloween crowd pleasers.

To have a chance to win a prize, Cake Walk participants might wish to investigate the library’s collection of Halloween costume books. Adults can be creative with The Halloween Handbook: 447 costumes by Bridie Clark and Ashley Dodd, teens might find the perfect one in The Original Duct Tape Halloween Book by Jim and Tim, the duct tape guys, and parents will find a variety of easy children’s’ costumes in FamilyFun Tricks and Treats by Deanna F. Cook

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