NEW YORK (AP) – Roaming adults throwing candy at children waiting on lawns. Drive-thru Halloween haunts. Yard parties instead of block parties and parades. Wider paths through corn mazes.
The family vacation so many look forward to will look different every year in the pandemic as parents and the people who provide Halloween fun navigate a myriad of limitations and safety concerns.
Some were looking forward to Halloween extra this year as it falls on a Saturday, with a monthly blue moon to boot.
Decisions are excellent in many areas to allow children to go from door to door or trunk to trunk of the car in parking lots looking for candy, with Los Angeles first banning trick-or-treating and then lowering the ban to a recommendation.
Other events have been canceled or changed, from Half Moon Bay in California 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 to great lengths to decorate their homes and gardens with spooky skeletons, tombstones and jack-o’-lanterns as up to 1,000 people pack the closed street to continue an old tradition: tell a joke, get a treat.
Not this year. Hot bags of popcorn, cups of hot chocolate, or cotton candy will likely not be handed out in exchange for the laughs while residents figure out how to spin.
“We plan to decorate the house as usual so that families can feel the Halloween atmosphere on their evening walks,” said Kirsten Starzer, mother of two children, ages 11 and 15. “We’ll put up a sign that says,” So far years! “
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 two-day event, which has now been canceled, typically draws 300,000 people from around the world to show off floats and school bracelets for the holidays.
‘It should have been our 50th year. I think we should celebrate in 2021, ”said Cameron Sinn, a local entrepreneur and festival president. “This year we have other things to worry about.”
The kick-off event the week before, the Safeway Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off World Championship, will take place without public spectators, but with many giant orange participants as judging goes virtually. With luck, a potential UK world record breaker will safely reach Half Moon Bay. The grower has a shot at $ 30,000 if he sets a new record.
There’s still some Halloween fun going on in Sleepy Hollow, more than 200 years after Washington Irving published his classic tale of the headless horseman who terrorized an unfortunate Ichabod Crane. But the undead, evil and lunatic who usually enjoy themselves at Philipsburg Manor will not be attending the annual walk-through horror attraction Horseman’s Hollow.
It is also a pandemic victim.
For example, it is a popular festival in Shawnee, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City, where children put straw in donated clothing to make their own scarecrows.
In North Kansas City, Missouri, the city’s park and recreation department canceled the Halloween in the Park event, instead inviting families to pick up a mysterious box of candy and other surprises.
“The health and safety of our children and families is our priority during this time,” the city explains on its website.
While the future is uncertain for trick-or-treat, Americans have stocked up on candy. According to the National Confectioners Association, US sales of Halloween-themed chocolate and candy are up 70% from 2019 in the four weeks ending August 9.
Ferrara Candy Co., which makes a Halloween staple, Brach’s Candy Corn, said most of its trading partners were demanding early deliveries of Halloween candies due to anticipated demand. The goal, however, is to reduce the amount of candy in anticipation of less trick-or-treat. It will give away surprising Halloween bags to shoppers heading to 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.
To fuel the desire for safety, Walmart is bringing in more masks that can do double duty as costume accessories, such as versions with the words ‘princess’ or ‘queen’. Walgreens has expanded its range of indoor and outdoor Halloween decorations, and its range of drink and snack options for home entertainment.
Scenarios for getting candy float on social media, with some planned treats for still kids in their yard so the young don’t have to leave their pandemic bubbles. Others consider long sticks with candy bucket hooks at the end, which provide social distance during retrieval, or long slides to route the candy to costumed recipients.
Alina Morse, a 15-year-old candy entrepreneur outside Detroit, suggests creating a Halloween candy tree decorated with lights and treats so kids can pick their own candies from a porch or yard.
“Selecting a treat from the tree makes the safe self-service much more fun,” said Alina, head of Zolli Candy.
None of this is enough for some parents who are reluctant to go from door to door with their children, while others are willing, cautious, if their environment allows it.
In Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, Jamie Bender said it all depends on her two kids, ages 3 and 5.
“If our neighbors wear masks when they open the door, we would let the kids cheat or treat a few houses and then the mandatory wiping of candy wrappers,” she said.
Halloween is Camille Maniago’s 10th birthday. On a Saturday’s Halloween, her family in Long Beach, California, was supposed to be big, but the pandemic ended that.
“We’re not sure what we’re going to do next, but it will probably involve a family costume and a small party with our immediate group,” said Rachel Maniago, Camille’s mother. “I have friends who thought of planning Easter egg candy hunting trips for their kids in their costumes in their yard and ending 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 are not taking place indoors or in tight spaces this year, the folks at the largest temporary world-record corn maze in Dixon, California, will continue from Sept. 27.
On 60 acres, the Cool Patch Pumpkins maze has now widened paths. Visitors are only allowed to walk in with resident household members and masks are required when social distance cannot be maintained.
As for the Halloween haunts, Brett Hays of the Haunted Attraction Association said that about half of its roughly 800 members’ attractions won’t be able to run this year due to the pandemic.
“It’s so uneven in terms of regulation right now,” said Hays, the group’s chairman. “Whatever local authorities have been put in charge of this, they are really clamoring to try and get a grip on what’s going on and deal with it.”
A few venues have already opened, he said, “and they really need to keep chasing people to keep them at bay and to make sure they keep their masks on. It’s a lot of looking after the customers. “
A few chases have created drive-thru experiences, an approach Hays is not a big fan of, noting the potential danger of the startle reflex in drivers with their feet on the accelerator. Other attractions have gone to timed tickets. Many expect a 50 percent reduction in the number of visitors in an industry that usually generates about $ 1.14 billion in annual ticket sales, mainly during the Halloween season.
“No one is going to have a great year,” said Hays. “There is no question about it.”
Associated Press writers Dee-Ann Durbin in Detroit, Anne D’Innocenzio in New York, and Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas contributed to this report.