Alyssa Rodriguez, left, and Cassandra Sanchez play a carnival game during the annual Fall Family Fun Night at Cox Elementary School in Fountain Valley Friday, Oct. 22. (Scott Smeltzer, HB Independent / October 25, 2010)

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The carnival games hadn't officially started and most families were still eating dinner, but 6-year-old Ellie McCready was taking advantage of having the blacktop nearly to herself as the sun went down Friday night.

Twirling with her arms out and her oversized pink sweatshirt and sandy blonde hair billowing around her, Ellie spun around and around with a grin on her face as the DJ played "Walking on Sunshine" by Katrina & The Waves.

Ellie, with a small smear of electric blue frosting on her mouth, said she liked the cool air that came with twirling, but the best part of the Fall Family Fun Night so far was eating a cupcake — and getting the purple octopus ring it came with.

"It was yummy," she said.

Students gathered with their families at James H. Cox Elementary School in Fountain Valley on Friday night for the annual Fall Family Fun Night. The free event brings families together for dinner, face-painting and carnival games.

A book fair was being held in one of the classrooms, school merchandise could be purchased, and the Girl Scouts were logging volunteer hours in the lunch area where families sat around tables covered in brown and orange tablecloths.

In their matching uniforms, the girls were getting their peers to pledge to "say peace out to drugs" to prepare for Red Ribbon Week.

Girl Scout Amanda Hay said she likes to volunteer, but she also enjoys the Fall Family Fun Night. The 10-year-old got to do both Friday night as she manned the booth in shifts with her fellow scouts.

"I like the games and the taking pictures," the fourth-grader said. "It's really a fun experience for me."

For Amanda, the event is the start of her Halloween festivities, which will culminate in her dressing up as the Statue of Liberty with a red, white and blue crown.

"I'm a patriotic girl, so I'm all for it," she said.

On the blacktop, tables were laden with tasty treats to support the school's fifth-graders. Red velvet cupcakes hidden under a mound of frosting, cookies covered with orange and black sprinkles and homemade chocolate chip cookies were on display to entice Cox families.

The money went right back to the fifth-graders to support an end-of-the-year party, said parent Joaquin Aguon.

As the sun went down, the free carnival games opened and kids lined up to take their turn to toss everything from rings, Frisbees and bean bags to milk bottles.

Everyone got a prize no matter how they did in the games, said Ellie's mother, Melanie McCready, who was spearheading the games.

Former student Adam Vu, 12, tried his luck with a hockey stick at the slap shot game. Adam tried to get the neon yellow puck between the legs of a wooden goalie.

He got two of the three through the goalie's legs.

"I'm beating my friends in it," he said, laughing.