A family on William Street in Vineyard Haven says they and some of their neighbors will welcome trick-or-treaters to their homes on Halloween so long as public health officials are OK with it.
Last year the popular trick-or-treating neighborhood made the decision not to hold the event, with COVID-19 raging and no vaccine to protect people from its effects. But with much of the population vaccinated and COVID numbers waning on the Island, Ethan and Tracey Stead say it should be full steam ahead for the tradition to return.
“If experts say it’s a go, it should be left up to individuals,” Tracey Stead told The Times. “For us, it’s a go.”
In an email to The Times, Tisbury health agent Maura Valley, who serves as the spokesperson for the Island boards of health, wrote, “There are no board of health restrictions on outdoor events at this time. Indoor events at public buildings or private buildings open to the public would fall under the mandatory mask order currently in effect.”
She referred other questions to the select board. Chair Jeff Kristal did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment. In an email, town administrator Jay Grande said the topic will be on next Wednesday’s select board agenda. Grande added that the police department will have more officers on duty to help with pedestrian safety that night.
The Steads said they spoke with Kristal, and are waiting to hear back. They’ll follow whatever protocols are in place, but see no reason why the tradition shouldn’t return this year. They pointed to events like First Fridays, Oyster Fest, and the Tisbury Firefighters Association Car Show, which attracted large crowds of people outside with no issues.
Tracey Stead said some in her neighborhood don’t agree, but they are older residents who didn’t fully participate in the past.
“In this weird time, it’s important to provide continuity to children and do it safely,” Ethan Stead said. “Provided nothing changes in the next two weeks, I don’t see evidence that kids are where this is spreading.”
Wiet Bacheller, another William Street resident, told The Times that she and her husband plan to give out treats (fortune cookies), but others in the neighborhood may not. She said she doesn’t believe they’ll seek to have the street blocked from traffic, in the hopes that people won’t come from all over the Island to their neighborhood.
“John and I have decided how we’re going to do it. We’re not having them come to the porch, we’re coming to the sidewalk, rain or shine,” she said. As a former schoolteacher, she wants to provide something for the neighborhood kids: “I’d just like to be as normal as possible and as safe as possible.”
As for her neighbors, she said, they’ll have to use their own judgment on how to proceed. “There [have] been discussions about Halloween,” she wrote. “Not the entire William St. Perhaps just 10 or so. The majority in this group decided not to participate. For sure, John and I will try to be as normal, yet careful with our trick-or-treaters.”
The Steads have three children — ages 8 to 16 — who want to see a return of the tradition that draws more than a thousand costumed kids to the neighborhood. Last year, as they held a small party indoors, some kids still showed up, and it was difficult for the Steads to keep the door closed.
“People who don’t want to participate this year can shut their lights off,” Ethan Stead said.
Halloween could return in other towns, too
After a year’s hiatus, the Edgartown Board of Trade is bringing back its Happy Hunting Event, which involves trick-or-treating at businesses. It’s typically held on the Sunday before Halloween, but this year, with Halloween on a Sunday, it’s being held right on the date from 10 am to 1 pm, Erin Ready, executive director of the Board of Trade, told The Times.
“It will be very low-key,” she said. “We’re looking to keep people moving and keep everyone safe and celebrate.”
The town still has an indoor mask mandate, so anyone going inside will have to wear a mask.
Ready said she’s looking forward to the event: “We’re doing our best. I would say as a town we try to put safety first, and people know how to operate, so we’re looking forward to a fun, safe event.”
Meanwhile, Al Fresco Tails Pet Sitting will hold a Tricks & Treats event at Nevin Square from 11 am to noon. “Show off your doggo’s best trick to win a treat! Plus, one very special prize awarded to the fur family with the best costume,” the announcement of the event states.
Al Fresco’s event is free, though they are accepting donations for the Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard.
Trick-or-treating on Vineyard Avenue in Oak Bluffs looks like it will make a comeback this year.
The Oak Bluffs select board will take up a request from Vineyard Avenue resident Guenivere Cramer to close off the trick-or-treating hot spot at their next regularly scheduled meeting on Oct. 26.
Last year, amid a spike in new COVID cases, the select board made a last-minute decision to rescind their approval of a Halloween road closure after a tense meeting with the board of health.
But with a decline in new cases, and a majority of the Island’s population vaccinated, select board member Jason Balboni said he got the “thumbs-up” from health agent Meegan Lancaster. Additionally, Police Chief Erik Blake and Fire Chief Nelson Wirtz both let the board know they were prepared to close off the road.
“I like the idea of getting the kids back out there on Vineyard Ave.,” Balboni said. “I like the idea of having that road closed, because it is a dark road and people tend to go way too fast down it.”
Select board member Emma Green-Beach said she was on board with a road closure as long as the board of health and public safety chiefs were.