COVID-19 changes Halloween celebrations throughout Alabama
The Coronavirus pandemic has been behind the cancelling of many events for most of 2020. Now one of the most popular social holidays is upon us and this leaves many people confused about what to do.
Sam Locke with the Haunted Chicken House in Heflin Alabama has to plan for COVID-19.
“We've got hand sanitizer stations all around. We've got protocols and procedures put in place like the 6-foot thing. We've got that placed in the ticket and waiting line. We’re asking people to please wear their masks, we also sell masks for people that don’t have one,” Locke said.
Spooky establishments like Locke’s are a common site across the country this time of year. Locke said he wasn’t sure of the turnout for his haunt because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Locke said it is important that his haunted house does well. It isn’t for personal gain though. He said it helps his community.
“I don’t know about other communities but for our community, it’s a fund raiser for our fire department. Without our haunted house we wouldn’t be able to open our doors and have new equipment. The ultimate goal is getting a new fire department," he said.
Locke said turnout has been much better than he expected. He thinks the boredom caused by the pandemic his helping bring out the crowds looking for a thrill.
“I was hoping for large crowds, I was , because of the funding for the fire department. I was hoping people would want to come out and come through. I was shocked by the amount of people that was wanting to come out and I’m guessing people are tired of sitting at home, they’re tired of this, they’re ready to get back to normal life,” Locke said.
COVID-19 is apparently presenting issues for trick or treaters. Some people are opting to stay home for the holiday this year. Jacqlyn Kirkland is a mother of two in Wetumpka Alabama. She said the annual tradition of putting on costumes and going door to door for candy is a big deal for her kids.
“They are always very excited to dress up in costumes, but they know they cant go trick or treating this year, so we’re going to do something special every week up to Halloween and then on Halloween we’re just going to have a little party with them,” she said.
Kirkland said they took the news well when they found out they would not be going out. She just has to make sure she stocks up on Starbursts and chocolate.
“They weren’t very sad, I think they’re just still at the age where they’re happy to do stuff with mom and dad. They weren’t very disappointed,” she said.
That’s the story for April Hallmark. She’s a mother of two in the town of Eldridge near Fayette. Hallmark said she’s worried this is will be the last chance to take her kids out for Halloween.
“I think it’s sad, my kids are older, and they may not even want to go trick or treating next year. As a parent, that makes me sad, because their last year you want do it right and go all out and this year, I don’t think we’ll be able to do that,” she said.
Normally Hallmark and her kids make the rounds through the neighborhoods in the area on the prowl for free candy.
“We go around the neighborhood, my grandmother lives in a neighborhood, we hit that one because they always do that for their grandkids, then we’ll hit the multipurpose complex they do a trunk or treat, we’ll go there and any neighborhoods with their lights on our way we’ll hit those too,” she said.
This year, Hallmark is planning on taking her kids out. However, it will be a lot different than in previous years.
“So far this year the only thing I know is going to be open is the drive-in doing trunk or treat and little maybe banks giving out candy," she said.
Trunk or Treats are becoming a more popular during COVID-19. Parents are banding together, decorating the trunks of their cars, and handing out candy in a more controlled fashion than ringing doorbells. These are usually held at places like community centers and churches. The Tuscaloosa Parks and Recreation Authority is holding something similar on Friday for families. It is called Boo in the Park.
“With social distancing and things being canceled we’re trying to create some new things for people to do in the park," said Becky Booker is with Tuscaloosa PARA. “Parks have become a very prominent place for people to go so they can get outside and exercise while social distancing, so we’re trying to create some new and fun things in the park.”
Booker said instead of a traditional Trunk or Treat, they’re doing a trail.
“There is a trick or treat trail section of the event for k-8th graders which is self-explanatory, trick or treat on the trail in the park there. That is a fee-based event, its 10 dollars in advance and 15 at the door and that will take place at the red barn in Sokol park south.”
Healthcare officials are on edge as the holiday approaches because of how easily COVID-19 is spread.
“Personally, as a pediatrician, I have discouraged children going house to house and ringing the doorbell,” said Dr. Karen Landers with the Alabama Department of Public Health.
She looks at Halloween from a medical viewpoint. Landers said the holiday means families with other people they don’t know. She says that’s asking for trouble.
“Reaching into a candy bucket and putting it into their candy sack, I’ve really strongly recommended against that contact situation,” she said.
Going from house to house looking for treats is a staple tradition of Halloween for many people. However, during this pandemic many people are opting out of taking their children out or even handing out candy themselves. Landers says there is a way people can still hand out treats safely.
“That those treats be prepackaged treats that are placed on a table or sidewalk for people to come by and pick up that treat and put it in their treat bag or their treat bucket without having contact with the persons in that household or other children in that household,” she said.
And for the parents, Landers said to follow the guidelines issued by the state and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We certainly do recommend people exercise extreme caution and follow the guidance we have talked about in terms of social distancing and respiratory hygiene and the wearing of a cloth face covering, a Halloween mask is not the same thing as a cloth face covering, so we need people to be aware of that,” she said.
Landers said she understands that people have been cooped up for a long time. She said people just need to be careful while dealing with the pandemic.
“It’s an opportunity for them to have fun and engage in activities but also at the same time, I recommend that we have to make adjustments," she said. "My recommendation for parents would be to develop their own celebrations, their own traditions and their own ways to make this special for their children.”