Halloween is just about a month away, and the pandemic means that we should not and cannot endorse traditional festivities. That means no door-to-door trick or treating, no haunted hayrides, no indoor Halloween parties, and definitely no bobbing for apples (which was truly disgusting in the before times and should never make a return).
We’ve learned that COVID-19 is mostly spread through droplets or aerosols (which are especially exacerbated in indoor spaces), and it’s not as likely to spread by touching surfaces. You should be mindful of wearing masks, keeping six feet distance, and washing or sanitizing hands. If you can apply these guidelines and methods that have already been established, there is no reason that Halloween can’t happen in a reimagined way.
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) just released guidelines for Halloween; Champaign-Urbana Public Health District (CUPHD) and the cities of Urbana and Champaign are in agreement with them. CUPHD also reminds everyone that indoor gatherings are more likely to spread COVID-19. Remember, Phase 4 guidelines are still in place, limiting the number of people who can be indoors and gathered together outdoors. We must continue to be vigilant and use our common sense about these matters; being tired of COVID-19 and wearing a costume do not give license to defy the current guidelines.
We see Halloween, which falls on a Saturday, as an opportunity to have some fun and levity before we retreat indoors for the winter. Keeping COVID-19 precautions in mind, there are still many activities you can organize for kids and adults that allow you to celebrate and, most importantly, dress up and eat candy. These could be individual, family events, or you could coordinate with your friends and neighbors to safely offer some of these activities outdoors. Though it’s a short turnaround, we’d really like to see the Cities of Urbana and Champaign team up with their corresponding park districts to offer physically distanced events for families, especially considering many people live in neighborhoods without parks or sidewalks, similar to this pumpkin hunt.
We all know that weather can be iffy on October 31st, but assuming it’s a beautiful fall day, or even a tolerable fall day, we’ve put together some suggestions.
Door-to-door trick or treating isn’t a great idea right now, but we think a modified version can happen. The closest thing to traditional trick-or-treating is to simply put out a big bowl or prepackaged bags of candy for trick-or-treaters. People have been doing this forever, so for some it may simply be another Halloween. This method runs the risk of one shitty person taking all the candy for theirself, so consider rationing your candy and refilling as needed. Might we suggest hanging out in your driveway? That way you can still see the cute costumes and wave (from a distance) at your neighbors. You may have seen photos or videos of candy slides on the internet. If this is something you’d like to build, by all means. If not, setting things out at the end of your driveway or walkway works just fine.
Likewise, there has been a lot of chatter on the internet about offering your kids a Halloween candy hunt, much like an Easter egg hunt. You can do this in your home or in your yard; we don’t recommend doing this in a public space because someone else may stumble upon your hidden treats before your kids.
Among our favorite potential activities is a Halloween costume fashion show. You can set up a runway on the sidewalk, or your hallway, or in your yard, and costumed people walking at least six feet away from each other can strut, twirl, and otherwise show off their costumes. We like this idea especially for apartment buildings; everyone can stay in their own spaces while the costume model passes by each open door. Prizes for best costumes (or all participants) are encouraged. We also recommend turning it into a costume fashion shoot, especially for little kids who may ham it up in front of the camera.
A Halloween parade is an activity that could infuse some joy in your neighborhood. Clark Park in Champaign organizes a variety of little parades for kids in the neighborhood; why not do the same in yours? The event would be outdoors, so you would be able to keep distance, plus you’ll be able to show off your family’s costumes and see the creativity of your neighbors’. You could also organize a parade in one of Champaign or Urbana’s parks, if your neighborhood doesn’t have sidewalks, for instance. It might also be a nice way for your kids to say hello (in a mask, from a distance) to their friends or classmates.
A combination of a fashion show and parade is an event we’d like to see organized by or with the park districts. A low entry fee (say, $5 per family) would help offset the cost of staffing and candy (participants should all receive a candy bar), but still remain accessible to many families. Offering this event in a park (or multiple parks) would limit the danger from vehicle or pedestrian traffic, and allow for distanced viewing.
For adults, of course the lowest risk activity would be hanging out with the people in your household, maybe for a scary movie marathon. But if you want to gather with others, we suggest an outdoor get together with a small group of friends. Testing is more easily available here than other places, so get tested before for some added peace of mind, just realize that it isn’t foolproof. Distancing is still important, as are masks if you cannot distance. Some Triptych beer, a well tended fire pit, and BYO snacks and dinner make for a good time. We don’t really need to tell you how to have a safe, adult hang. If you want to wear costumes, more power to you. Just be smart about things, and realize that any sort of gathering will come with risk. We do not need any more super spreader events in C-U.
Halloween usually marks the end of regular, outdoor activities. This year, it’s just a few days before a very stress-inducing election. We could use a little fun and levity before winter (actual, emotional, and/or nuclear) descends. We can come together safely and smartly in small groups, as neighbors, and/or as a community for something fun, lighthearted, and enjoyable.
The Editorial Board is Jessica Hammie, Julie McClure, and Patrick Singer.