Where does Halloween stand in the Tri-Cities amidst the pandemic?


SULLIVAN CO., Tenn. (WJHL)- It shouldn’t be a surprise that Halloween will look different this year. But a month and a half before trick-or-treating, Covid-19 concerns are leading to the cancellation of some popular events centered around Halloween.

Organizers of two major events in Sullivan County said there’s no way they can plan for a party in a pandemic.

Capt. Andy Seabolt with the Sullivan Co. Sheriff’s Office told News Channel 11’s Anslee Daniel on Thursday that the department’s annual ‘Trunk-or-Treat event has been cancelled.

“We are just unable to do that with large crowds and some of these events that we do unfortunately do involve large crowds, Seabolt said. “We want to maintain the safety of the public as well as our employees.”

Seabolt says that event brings in thousands of children and their families, making it difficult to follow local and CDC guidelines.

“With thousands of people and not a lot a large place, we are unable to guarantee that people would be socially distancing and things like that,” Seabolt said. “It’s a difficult decision to be made but we hope to be able to have this again next year and pick it back up. This is really one of our favorite events and being able to do good things for the community.”

In Kingsport- the annual ‘Halloween Bash’ that benefits Keep Kingsport Beautiful will also not be happening.

“You’re making a decision today for an event that is months away and the reason we have to do that is that there are ticket sales, there are sponsors, there are things that have to be lined up,” said coordinator James Phillips. “When you have events like the Santa Train being canceled that are all the way in December, you just kind of realize that for the safety of everybody… it’s probably the right thing to do.”

The bash brings about 700 people to the indoor Farmer’s Market with food, a concert and costume contest.

“We don’t even know that we would be allowed to have an event of that size at that time so if we don’t know the answers to those questions, it’s kind of hard to go down the road of planning an event,” Phillips said. “There’s no real solution yet for how to hold the event and social distance and be able to actually not lose all your money.”

As for other planned events like Trick-or-Treat on Walnut Street in Johnson City, no decision has been made.

The towns of Jonesborough and Erwin expect the subject to come up at their meetings next week.

RISE in Erwin and the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce say they will make a decision once their respective localities do.

Kingsport’s Downtown Association is looking at options with the city, merchants and vendors and hopes to have a decision made within the next three to four weeks.

Bristol, Tennessee’s city manager, Bill Sorah, says a plan is in the works between Parks and Recreation and ‘Believe in Bristol’ for an event downtown.

“Details are still in the formulative stages but will be focused on COVID-19 protocols. The City does not regulate traditional “door to door” Halloween activities in neighborhoods,” Sorah said. “As we get closer to the event, we will work closely with our Sullivan County Health Department to develop appropriate advisories for parents to consider if they plan to be involved in neighborhood events.”

So far- the only cancellations are for large planned events. No local governments have indicated they’ll ban door to door trick-or-treating.

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