How local Halloween events are dealing with COVID-19 social distancing this year
Officials looking to mitigate risk while creating an opportunity for some normalcy in the community
Like nearly everything this year, Oct. 31, 2020 will look a bit different due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Eagle County, the annual festivities have been adjusted to create a safe experience for all trick-or-treaters and Halloween merrymakers.
Trick-or-treating events, like those hosted in Vail, Minturn, Eagle Ranch and elsewhere, have been popular in the valley for years, but this year, they might prove to be the preferred avenue for trick-or-treating. With events, everything is regulated and all participants must follow the same set of social distancing guidelines. Traditional trick-or-treating at privately owned houses means that one house’s COVID-19 safety level could be different from the next. The peace of mind that comes with a public trick-or-treating event could outweigh the potential health risks associated this year with traditional trick-or-treating.
One of those events is the Trick or Treat Trot in Vail, with a redesigned model for its 28th year. Participating businesses throughout Vail typically hold out candy baskets for kids to pick and choose their favorite treats, but sticking a hand into a bowl creates increased possibilities for virus spread. Instead, participating businesses will place candy into each trick-or-treater’s bag. All participants will be expected to follow social distancing protocols and wear masks inside businesses.
The Vail Recreation District, which puts on the event each year, has worked closely with the Eagle County public health department to make sure the event is compliant with all local and state social distancing guidelines.
“We’re trying to create a festive and safe atmosphere for families to feel good about trick-or-treating,” said Jessie Klefoth, marketing and communications director for the Vail Rec District. “We’re just really excited to be able to host this event and keep it going.”
The annual Trick or Treat Street in Eagle Ranch has approached the 2020 coronavirus pandemic with the same ethos. The event, which has been bringing together local businesses for trick-or-treating and Halloween discounts to Eagle Ranch businesses, typically attracts 300 to 500 participants from across the Vail Valley each year.
Organizers, including Yoga Off Broadway owner Yvonne Schwartz, who has been participating since the studio moved to Eagle Ranch in 2016, realized that hosting the traditional Trick or Treat Street would not be wise for “obvious reasons.”
“That being said, we just couldn’t accept taking the year off and doing ‘nothing’ for our kids,” she said.
To minimize social contact, trick-or-treaters were invited to visit the participating Eagle Ranch businesses from Wednesday, Oct. 28, through Saturday, Oct. 31, and take pictures with their costumes. By sharing their pictures on Facebook and/or Instagram with #eagleranchtrickortreat, participants are entered to win prizes. The photo stops are located at Endorphin, Zelous Schools, Slifer Smith & Frampton, Yoga Off Broadway, Knapp Ranch and Berkshire Hathaway.
Additionally, the street will be decorated, and the annual “Thriller” dancers will be doing some pop-up performances. At their own discretion, businesses will hand out treats and restaurants will offer food and drink specials.
“This year anyone is welcome to come down and join us. We designed our event to be a low-risk and low-contact way for the people in our community to still put on a costume and come celebrate Halloween,” Schwartz said. “You can expect us to bring back our traditional Trick or Treat street in 2021 and I am sure we will continue with our newest traditions of decorating and celebrating our local businesses.”
Minturn’s Halloween festivities are also some of the most popular in the Vail Valley. Complete with old houses and tons of decorations, the day before Halloween in Minturn is one of the best places to enjoy all the spooky fun. While it’s not officially organized like other Halloween events, the Town of Minturn is taking its own precautions to protect trick-or-treaters by not placing its candy bowl outside of the town hall this year.
“Minturn’s traditions in Halloween run deep and the excitement for October 30 (the day before Halloween) is a long-standing tradition of the community,” the town said in its official Halloween update. “The town does not organize this event as it’s an organic occurrence not necessitating government organization. The primary difference this year is that the candy station typically outside of town hall will not be available, and the recommendation to follow all public health guidelines as they are currently provided or may be updated.”
But private residences can still choose to participate and offer candy to any trick-or-treaters on that date. At a Minturn Town Council meeting on Oct. 7, several discussed the possibility of eliminating contact during trick-or-treating by passing candy to children through 6-foot “treat delivery chutes.”
“There’s a way to do this safely,” said Eagle County Public Health Director Heath Harmon via a Zoom call in the Oct. 7 meeting. “I think my mantra these days is really mitigating the risk to the maximum extent while we’re also really creating opportunity for some normalcy in our communities.”
But other event organizers weren’t so lucky this year. Fall Fun Fest, organized by the Mountain Life Calvary Chapel, was canceled on Thursday, Oct. 29 due to rising positive case numbers in Eagle County. Though the event had been in the works for eight weeks — numbers were trending positively then — the church didn’t want to put any families in danger with the event, which was supposed to take place on Oct. 31 at 4 Eagle Ranch.
“This event seemed to be just what the valley needed after a hard year: a safe, fun time. And with COVID-19 numbers low, we felt we could pull that off and feel good about not putting people at risk.” said Lead Pastor Nate Morris. “However, our current numbers are trending in the orange on the COVID-19 dial, and the possibility of schools closing to in-person studies is potentially looming over us in the coming weeks. Because of this, we feel that the best way we can love our community at this time is to do our part to help keep schools open and our community healthy for the coming ski season. This is one of my favorite community outreach events of the year, so I personally am heartbroken about having to cancel, but I really believe it’s the right thing to do.”
The Vail Daily’s John LaConte contributed reporting to this story.
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