Trick-or-What? Pan­demic Hal­loween is a mixed bag all around


NEW YORK (AP) — Rov­ing grownups toss­ing candy at kids wait­ing on lawns. Drive-thru Hal­loween haunts. Yard par­ties in­stead of block par­ties and pa­rades. Wider paths through corn mazes.

The fam­ily hol­i­day so many look for­ward to each year is go­ing to look dif­fer­ent in the pan­demic as par­ents and the peo­ple who pro­vide Hal­loween fun nav­i­gate a myr­iad of re­stric­tions and safety con­cerns.

Some were look­ing ex­tra-for­ward to Hal­loween this year be­cause it falls on a Saturday, with a monthly blue moon to boot.

De­ci­sions are out­stand­ing in many ar­eas on whether to al­low kids to go door to door or car trunk to car trunk in park­ing lots in search of candy, with Los An­ge­les first ban­ning trick-or-treat­ing, then down­grad­ing its pro­hi­bi­tion to a rec­om­men­da­tion.

Other events have been can­celed or changed, from Cal­i­for­nia’s Half Moon Bay to New York’s leg­endary Sleepy Hol­low — and points in be­tween.

On a typ­i­cal Hal­loween along Clark Av­enue in the St. Louis sub­urb of Webster Groves, neigh­bors go all out to dec­o­rate their houses and yards with spooky skele­tons, tomb­stones and jack-o’-lanterns as up to 1,000 peo­ple pack the blocked-off street to carry on an old tra­di­tion: Tell a joke, get a treat.

Not this year. There will likely be no warm bags of pop­corn, cups of hot choco­late or cot­ton candy doled out in ex­change for the laughs as res­i­dents fig­ure out how to pivot.

“We plan to dec­o­rate the house as usual so fam­i­lies can feel the Hal­loween spirit on their even­ing walks,” said Kirsten Starzer, mom to two kids, ages 11 and 15. “We will put up a sign that says, ‘See you next year!’”

Along the Pa­cific Coast about 25 miles south of San Fran­cisco, this Hal­loween was meant to be a mile­stone for the Half Moon Bay Art & Pump­kin Festival. The two­day event, now can­celed, usu­ally draws up to 300,000 peo­ple from around the world to show off pa­rade floats and school bands for the hol­i­day.

“It was sup­posed to be our 50th year. I guess we’ll have to cel­e­brate that in 2021,” said Cameron Palmer, a lo­cal busi­ness owner and pres­i­dent of the festival. “This year we have other things to worry about.”

The kick-off event the week be­fore, the Safe­way World Cham­pi­onship Giant Pump­kin Weigh-Off, will carry on with no pub­lic spec­ta­tors but plenty of hu­mon­gous orange con­tes­tants as the judg­ing goes vir­tual. With any luck, a po­ten­tial world record-breaker from the U.K. will make it safely to Half Moon Bay. Its grower has a shot at $30,000 if he sets a new record.

There’s still some Hal­loween fun to be had in Sleepy Hol­low more than 200 years af­ter Wash­ing­ton Irv­ing pub­lished his clas­sic story about the head­less horse­man who ter­ror­ized a hap­less Ich­a­bod Crane. But the un­dead, evil and in­sane who usu­ally en­ter­tain at Philips­burg Manor won’t be present for the an­nual walk-through hor­ror at­trac­tion Horse­man’s Hol­low. It, too, is a pan­demic ca­su­alty. So is a pop­u­lar festival in the Kansas City sub­urb of Shawnee, Kansas, in which chil­dren stuff straw into do­nated clothes to make their own scare­crows.

In North Kansas City, Mis­souri, the city’s parks and recre­ation depart­ment can­celed its Hal­loween in the Park event, in­stead invit­ing fam­i­lies to pick up a mys­tery box with candy and other sur­prises in­side.

“The health and safety of our chil­dren and fam­i­lies are our pri­or­ity dur­ing this time,” the city ex­plained on its web­site.

While the fu­ture is un­cer­tain for trick-or-treat­ing, Amer­i­cans have been stock­ing up on candy. U.S. sales of Hal­loween-themed choco­late and candy were up 70% over 2019 in the four weeks end­ing Aug. 9, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Con­fec­tion­ers As­so­ci­a­tion.

Fer­rara Candy Co., which makes a Hal­loween sta­ple, Brach’s Candy Corn, said most of its re­tail part­ners asked for early ship­ments of Hal­loween candy be­cause of ex­pected de­mand. Tar­get, how­ever, is re­duc­ing candy as­sort­ments in an­tic­i­pa­tion of less trick-or­treat­ing. It will give away sur­prise Hal­loween bags to shoppers who drive up to its stores in Oc­to­ber.

CVS Phar­macy said it has scaled back the num­ber of large and giant bags of candy its stores will re­ceive in fa­vor of smaller bags for smaller out­ings and fam­ily gath­er­ings.

Feed­ing the de­sire for safety, Wal­mart is bring­ing in more masks that can pull dou­ble duty as cos­tume ac­ces­sories, such as ver­sions that fea­ture the words “princess” or “queen.” Wal­greens has in­creased its as­sort­ments of in­door and out­door Hal­loween dec­o­ra­tions, and it stepped up of­fer­ings of bev­er­age and snack op­tions for en­ter­tain­ing at home.

Candy-get­ting sce­nar­ios are afloat on so­cial me­dia, with some plan­ning treat tosses to sta­tion­ary chil­dren in their yards so the young don’t have to leave their pan­demic bubbles. Oth­ers are con­sid­er­ing long sticks with hooks for candy buck­ets at the end, of­fer­ing so­cial dis­tance at col­lec­tion time, or long chutes to send the candy through to dressed-up re­cip­i­ents.

Alina Morse, a 15-year-old candy en­tre­pre­neur out­side Detroit, sug­gests fash­ion­ing a Hal­loween candy tree dec­o­rated with lights and treats so kids can pluck their own from a porch or yard.

“Se­lect­ing a treat from the tree makes the safe, self-serve ex­pe­ri­ence much more fun, said Alina, who heads Zolli Candy.

None of that is enough for some par­ents wary about go­ing door to door with their kids, while oth­ers are will­ing, with care, if their ar­eas al­low it.

In Chicago’s Lin­coln Park neigh­bor­hood, Jamie Ben­der said it all de­pends for her two kids, ages 3 and 5.

“If our neigh­bors are wear­ing masks when they open the door, we would let the kids trick-or-treat a few houses then do the oblig­a­tory wipe-down of candy wrap­pers,” she said.

Hal­loween is Camille Ma­ni­ago’s 10th birth­day. With Hal­loween on a Saturday, her fam­ily in Long Beach, Cal­i­for­nia, was go­ing to go big, but the pan­demic put a stop to that.

“We’re not sure what we’ll do now, but it will prob­a­bly in­volve a fam­ily cos­tume and a small cel­e­bra­tion with our im­me­di­ate pod,” said Camille’s mother, Rachel Ma­ni­ago. “I have friends who were think­ing of plan­ning Easter egg style candy hunts for their kids in their yards in cos­tumes and fin­ish­ing it with a movie night. Def­i­nitely not the same, but I think it has a fes­tive el­e­ment to it.”

While many haunted houses and events in­doors or in tight spa­ces aren’t hap­pen­ing this year, the folks at the world record-hold­ing largest tem­po­rary corn maze in Dixon, Cal­i­for­nia, are press­ing on, start­ing Sept. 27.

At 60 acres, the maze at Cool Patch Pump­kins now has widened paths. Visi­tors must walk through with live-in house­hold mem­bers only, and masks are re­quired when so­cial dis­tance can’t be main­tained.

On the Hal­loween haunts front, Brett Hays of the Haunted At­trac­tion As­so­ci­a­tion, said roughly half the at­trac­tions among his 800 or so mem­bers will not be able to run this year due to the pan­demic.

“It’s so un­even in terms of reg­u­la­tions right now,” said Hays, the group’s pres­i­dent. “What­ever lo­cal agen­cies have been put in charge of this re­ally are clam­or­ing to try to get a hold of what’s go­ing on and be able to handle it.”

A few haunts have al­ready opened, he said, “and they’re hav­ing to re­ally stay af­ter peo­ple to keep them dis­tanced and to get them to keep their masks on. It’s a lot of babysit­ting the cus­tomers.”

A few haunts have cre­ated driv­ethru ex­pe­ri­ences, an ap­proach Hays isn’t a huge fan of, not­ing the po­ten­tial dan­ger of the star­tle re­flex in driv­ers with their feet on gas ped­als. Other at­trac­tions have gone to timed tick­ets. Many ex­pect a 50 per­cent re­duc­tion in at­ten­dance in an in­dus­try that usu­ally gen­er­ates about $1.14 bil­lion in an­nual ticket sales, pri­mar­ily dur­ing Hal­loween sea­son.

“No­body’s go­ing to have a great year,” Hays said. “There’s no doubt about it.”


FILE — Revel­ers march dur­ing the Green­wich Vil­lage Hal­loween Pa­rade in New York on Oct. 31, 2019. The hol­i­day so many look for­ward to each year is go­ing to look dif­fer­ent in the pan­demic as par­ents and the peo­ple who pro­vide Hal­loween fun nav­i­gate a myr­iad of re­stric­tions and safety con­cerns.

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