(WJHL)- In a year that’s been more trick than treat, many are hoping Halloween events can still move forward in the Tri-Cities despite COVID-19.
New Halloween guidelines released by the CDC call into question how normal October 31st will look in 2020. The guidelines discourage traditional trick-or-treating among other activities. Alternative events, like drive-thru trunk or treating and outdoor movie nights are being planned by some organizations.
Many localities are still undecided, or not having any city-run Halloween events entirely. News Channel 11 reached out to representatives for different cities on Wednesday for a status update:
Bristol, Tenn – no city activities planned
Bristol, VA – no city activities planned
Greeneville – the status of large events like Halloween Happenings will likely be determined in the coming days
Johnson City – Halloween remains a topic of discussion. No decisions have been made yet.
Kingsport – too early for any set plans
Meanwhile, other cities are still planning events, with adjustments to follow safety guidelines.
“I think we’re all event-deprived with COVID this year,” said Kelly Kitchens, programming and special events coordinator for Elizabethton Parks and Recreation.
In Elizabethton the fate of the Main Street Downtown Trick or Treat event has yet to be determined by City Council.
Kitchens said if the October 31st event is approved, attendees will see stickers on the ground reminding them to socially distance and be asked to wear masks if a mandate is still present. The Parks and Rec Department will still hand out candy, but having inflatables won’t be possible.
Elizabethton Parks and Rec will for sure hold a socially-distanced outdoor movie event on Oct. 24th. The costume contest normally held at the Main Street event will happen that night instead.
“We’re asking that everybody dress up, come in costume that evening, come and have some fun with us,” said Kitchens.
Free candy and popcorn will be given out at the movie night as well. The event runs from 6-10 p.m. at Covered Bridge Park on Oct. 24th.
The town of Marion announced its Halloween festivities will move forward. A Wednesday release from the town reads:
“Scarecrow Lane”, the traditional Fall decorating event, will take place along Main Street throughout downtown October 14 through November 2. Participants can view the displays either by walking or driving by, and vote on line.
“Halloween Madness” will be held Saturday, October 31, from 10am until noon on Broad Street. Vendors must pre-register, and will be provided a space along the sidewalk on Broad Street. Instead of using one block, the event will stretch the length of Broad Street to allow maximum distance between vendors. Participants are urged to wear cloth masks and to maintain social distance, and businesses are encouraged to participate in the Broad Street event instead of handing out candy at their locations to lessen the opportunity for exposure.
Ken Heath, Marion’s Director of Community and Economic Development, said the town considered people’s physical health, as well as their mental health when planning the events.
“People are pent-up, we’re seeing a lot of community anger in every community,” Heath told News Channel 11. “With the guidelines we’ve got from the Virginia Department of Health, there’s a way for the town to get back in the driver’s seat, to be able to lead some community events, pull the community back together, and be able to keep our people safe.”
Heath said they want to reduce crowding at the Halloween Madness event.
“It’s important for us to make sure we spread everybody out as far as we can,” he said. “We’re encouraging participants to not only wear a Halloween mask, but wear a cloth mask to be protection.”
Amid the pandemic, the demand for Halloween fun is high. On Wednesday, the Mall at Johnson City announced 500 tickets for a drive-tru candy crawl sold out within a week.
Some churches are also getting creative with their 2020 Halloween plans.
Port City Church in Kingsport’s Halloween event has drawn over 1,000 people in the past, so this year they’re switching it up.
“I wanted to give all families something they would feel comfortable with, so we’ve decided to do a drive-thru trunk or treat this year,” said Leeann Bruner, the children’s minister for Port City Church.
The event will run from 5-8 p.m. on Oct. 31st at the church on 2601 E Center St. Bruner said the community is welcome.
“It will give families the ability to pull in through a balloon arch. They’ll be given some popcorn. They’ll get to drive around, look at some decorated trunks, all the decorations we have up. At the end they will get one large bag of candy, instead of stopping at every station,” said Bruner.
Afterwards, families can watch a Halloween movie in the church courtyard, complete with hot chocolate.
What about neighborhood trick-or-treating?
The Northeast Regional Health Department deferred to the new CDC Halloween guidelines on Wednesday. The guidelines discourage trick-or-treating, trunk or treat in large lots, and indoor costume parties.
Different cities said they don’t regulate trick-or-treat activities, and whether to go door-to-door is a matter of personal decision.
In a message to News Channel 11, a spokesperson for Kingsport said, “The city can’t cancel Halloween so our role will be to provide best practices and try to help everyone stay safe!”
Heath said the town of Marion doesn’t regulate holidays and doesn’t take a position on trick-or-treating.
“We’re leaving that up to individuals. We’re not getting into that at all,” said Heath.