COVID-19 scares off Halloween events

Several popular homes and spots for trick-or-treating on the Island are keeping their lights off this year.

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Trick-or-treaters on Williams Street in 2017. Several homeowners say this year they're passing on the Halloween tradition.

Several residents of one of the most popular spots for trick-or-treating on Martha’s Vineyard have decided not to hand out candy and treats this year.

Wiet Bacheller, a William Street resident of Vineyard Haven, said five residences in the neighborhood between Woodlawn and Center streets have talked and decided not to participate this year. “John and I will be missing the fun of catching up with so many former students who bring their children and grandchildren. We would have loved to continue giving out baggies of fortune cookies, but could not come up with a safe way of doing it for the kids as well as for ourselves,” Bacheller wrote in an email to The Times.

Instead, Bacheller and her husband John will donate money they usually spend on Halloween to the Island Food Pantry. 

“It’s a great opportunity for parents to explain to the children that the money spent on buying treats and fortune cookies will actually be used to put dinner on the table of families who are less fortunate in these difficult times,” Bacheller wrote. “Perhaps we can create a name for these donations to [the Island Food Pantry]. How about In Honor of the Trick-or-Treaters of 2020?”

Tisbury has issued its own guidance on Halloween following state and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, and suggests one-way trick-or-treating, where treats are placed as “grab and go.”

Under state guidelines, Halloween activities are subject to the current gathering size limits. Indoor gatherings are limited to 25 people in an enclosed space, and 50 people in an outdoor space, according to the state guidelines.

The CDC is also offering supplemental guidance on Halloween celebrations. The CDC is advising against high-risk activities such as traditional trick-or-treating and attending costume parties held indoors.

Instead, the CDC recommends low-risk activities such as carving and decorating pumpkins with members of your household, decorating your house, doing a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given a list of Halloween-themed things to look for while walking outdoors, and having a virtual Halloween costume contest.

The CDC suggests that if people want to hand out candy, treats are individually wrapped in goodie bags, and lined up for families to grab while continuing to social distance. When preparing goodie bags, it is recommended to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before preparation. People who go out should wear masks and properly social distance.

In Oak Bluffs, selectmen voted to block vehicle traffic on Vineyard Avenue on Halloween night to allow for trick-or-treaters. The Times also received a letter from Vineyard Avenue resident Sara Crafts, saying that she and her partner will be turning off the lights instead of welcoming trick-or-treaters, to remain safe. “I’m 81, and my partner is 82. We are very careful about how we conduct our lives, and virtually our only regular visits out ’mongst people we don’t know are to grocery stores for sustenance,” she wrote. “Also, like most people our age, we live on relatively fixed incomes. Somehow I can’t think this is the year to spend $200-plus on treats for the kids for Halloween (yep, that’s what it costs) for all the kids who ramble onto Vineyard Avenue, and then go out and greet them all on my porch.”

Despite concerns from town health agent Meegan Lancaster that closing the street would constitute an outdoor gathering, Oak Bluffs selectmen went ahead with the street closure. Selectmen chair Jason Balboni said the town had had successful street closures throughout the summer on Circuit Avenue on Sundays, and a closed-off street would allow for more space for social distancing.

In Edgartown, the annual Happy Haunting, where downtown businesses hand out candy, will not be taking place.

Instead, the Board of Trade is hosting a storywalk for children. The storywalk, which will be at Rosebud Kids, will allow children to experience “The Ghosts Go Marching,” a children’s book about trick-or-treaters, which will be deconstructed and featured on signs. The storywalk will be up from Oct. 22 to Nov. 1.

The West Tisbury Halloween party usually put on by the parks department has also been canceled.

At a meeting on Tuesday, Chilmark selectmen urged families to attend a drive-through event planned for town hall and the fire station. 

Aquinnah officials could not be immediately reached for comment on how that town plans to handle Halloween.