The Witches of South Walton are quite unlike the wicked witches of Halloween folklore; in fact, they are downright benevolent.
This group of 30A-riding witches prefer bikes to brooms in their annual Halloween ride to raise funds for Children’s Volunteer Health Network.
“The number of witches has grown each year and … each one of them is helping CVHN change lives. Every dollar raised helps more uninsured or underinsured children gain access to the health care they need and deserve,” said CVHN Executive Director Zach Billingsley.
The inaugural ride was held Oct. 31, 2004, started by “Alpha Witch” Carol Stafford and two of her friends, who would get together a few times a week to ride down the 30A bike path for exercise.
One Halloween, a little hocus-pocus started the tradition many look forward to each Oct. 31.
“I jokingly suggested that we wear witch hats on Halloween day. We did, and got lots of attention. Busses honked their horns at us, trucks blew and whistled at us, the kids going to school loved it, and so did most all the parents and teachers,” said Stafford.
With such a raucous reception, the three decided to hold it the next year, and in 2005, the group numbered five bewitching riders. The first few rides were just for a treat, but with the continued and growing interest in the ride, participants realized they should make the most of its rising popularity and add a charity aspect.
So, in 2008, the witches rode out for the Children’s Volunteer Health Network, which provides dental, medical, and mental health care services to families with limited or no insurance.
“My mom worked with Children’s Volunteer Health Network, and it became our mission to help raise funds and awareness. We charge each witch an entry fee, and we raffle items donated by local merchants,” said Stafford.
Last year, the event raised more than $1,000 for CVHN with upwards of 65 participants.
That money comes in the night before the witches ride, Oct. 30, at the Witch’s Brew. The bike-riding witches come out to donate raffle prices, pay the $15 entry fee, purchase $5 raffle tickets for spa services to Eco tours, and enjoy potions and other libations for a good cause.
The event this year will be held at Great Southern in Seaside from 5 to 7 p.m., but Stafford says witches will not turn to dust if they stay past that hour.
“The event never ends at 7 p.m., as the more wicked among us choose to linger,” said Stafford, though those “wicked” witches cannot tarry too late, as the ride starts Halloween morning at 7 a.m. sharp.
The pointed-hat-wearing witches meet on bikes in front of Miss Lucille’s Gossip Parlor. From there, they ride, capes waving, to Butler Elementary to give the students a festive treat, and then fly back to Gulf Place.
The fun spell continues even after the ride, however, as the witches then proceed to Grayt Coffee in Grayton Beach “for more brew” and raffle prize distribution. A $15 brunch of Gouda cheese grits, shrimp, egg casseroles, fruit and pastries will be served.
In the past eight years, this entertaining ride has become a much-anticipated event for bystanders and participants, but most importantly, the event does magical things for CVHN.
“Isn’t it amazing what a small group of caring people can do? The Witches of South Walton are a group of genuine, caring people who love to have fun,” Billingsley said. “We are grateful for the support from the Witches of South Walton and look forward to this event every year.”
For more information about the Oct. 30 Witches Brew or the Oct. 31 ride, visit witchesofsouthwalton.com or LIKE the group on Facebook.