IF YOU WERE NEAR KOLB PARK in Dublin last week you may have seen a giant cougar, a police chipmunk and McGruff the Crime Dog leading a parade of purple-clad Murray Elementary school students and staff members. They formed a "walking bus" and sang songs on the way to school.

Last Tuesday was Murray's second annual Walk to School Day, and they celebrated in a big way. The police brought their cars and motorcycles for the kids to admire, and Mayor Janet Lockhart handed out Frisbees. Principal Rick Boster encouraged the kids to make walking to school a habit and explained how it's good for the environment and for their health.

Walk to School Day is held each October in schools all over the world. It began in Hertfordshire County, Britain, in 1995. In the United States, the Partnership for a Walkable America launched the first walk in Chicago in 1997. By last year, 42 countries were participating, including most of our local elementary schools. Goals vary for each school, from safer streets to healthier habits to conserving the environment.

Murray Elementary, along with other Dublin schools, continued the celebration of Walk to School Day by joining Dublin High School's Homecoming Parade a few days later. They marched, along with floats and vintage automobiles, to the annual carnival, which featured inflatables, games, contests, live music, an obstacle course and plenty of food. The day finished with the football game and presentation of the Homecoming Court.

Without a doubt, October is a festive month for Tri-Valley schools. In addition to Walk to School Day and Homecoming events, there have been book fairs, field trips and festivals.

One of the largest and most elaborate festivals takes place at Hearst Elementary school in Pleasanton. Their recreation of Harry Potter's world was such a hit last year it drew more than 1,200 attendees, many of them in costume. The school grounds are transformed into places from the book series, such as Diagon Alley, with activities at the Leaky Cauldron, Magical Menagerie and Quality Quidditch Supply. Hogwarts hosts a cake walk in the Great Hall, while the houses of Griffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw feature classes such as divination, flying lessons, potions, transfiguration and defense against the Dark Arts. To top it off, brave souls enter

Tom Riddle's

haunted home through the cursed graveyard.

It takes 350 volunteers to run the event, an impressive number considering the school has 700 students. "I couldn't run this event without our volunteer high school students," said coordinator Kasey Hughes. About 45 students from Amador and Foothill's leadership and drama departments work as actors, conflict managers, security and booth leaders.

High school students are also in demand this month as actors at the Haunted Barn and the Haunted House in Livermore. Joanne Foy from the California Independent Film Festival and director of the Haunted House said the experience is popular with drama students because it is like an apprenticeship.

"It's a perfect training ground for high school kids who want to work with makeup, lighting, setting a scene and set design," Foy said.

Reach Amy Moellering at ajmoellering@comcast.net.