Like most everything this year, Halloween is going to look a little different than normal.
As expected, COVID-19 safety protocols in place that encourage social distancing, limited group size and cleanliness have forced big changes to some of Halloween’s most treasured traditions.
Tim Walsworth, executive director of the Durango Business Improvement District, said the trick-or-treat event in downtown Durango, for instance, had to be canceled on account of concerns about spreading the virus.
Every year, for a few hours on Halloween, about 100 businesses open their doors to hand out candy to costumed children, drawing about 1,000 people to downtown Durango, Walsworth said.
“Unfortunately, we had to cancel that this year,” he said.
Fort Lewis College spokeswoman Lauren Savage said the college had to nix its yearly haunted house event. And a representative with Three Springs said the annual Fall Festival, too, was called off.
But there are still ways to safely enjoy and celebrate Halloween, said Liane Jollon, executive director of San Juan Basin Public Health.
Although trick-or-treating is outside and may be considered a low-risk activity, it does draw a large number of people together in a situation where it’s hard to maintain social distancing, she said.
And with cases on the rise in La Plata County, the health department is considering trick-or-treating a high-risk activity. But, not to fear: SJBPH has laid out some protocols to pull off the exchange of candy safely.
Jollon said households that want to participate should leave treats outside, like at the end of a driveway, so children don’t have to go door-to-door and interact with multiple people.
Candy should also be spaced out, so kids aren’t putting their hands into the same container.
Whereas the usual tradition is for families from all over to descend on the homes along East Third Avenue, Jollon said people should stay and trick-or-treat within their own neighborhoods, in small groups with people only from their household.
“We rather people stay closer to home, in smaller groups, with household members,” she said.
Although some of the traditional Halloween celebrations aren’t going on this year, Jollon encouraged families to get creative and create new ways of ringing in the ghoulish holiday.
“All the things we really enjoy about Halloween, we have to think about differently this year,” she said.
Indeed, people in Durango are getting creative.
Every year, the Durango Elks Lodge goes all out on a haunted house, which of course, wasn’t possible this year, said club manager Jon Patla.
Instead, the Elks Lodge is hosting a Halloween decoration contest, where people can submit photos of their business or home decked out in Halloween adornments, and people can vote.
“We’re doing this in lieu of the haunted house, since we can’t do that this year,” Patla said.
And the Elks Lodge will host a costume contest on Halloween, open only to its members, with proper social distancing.
“It’s the same thing we do daily except on Halloween night we’ll be dressed up,” he said. “We don’t want to just blow over the whole Halloween thing, because it is one of our biggest events.”
The Weminuche Woodfire Grill in Vallecito is hosting a pumpkin-carving contest and pumpkin glow, where people pick up a pumpkin between now and Oct. 25 at the restaurant, and bring it back on Oct. 25 for a judging contest.
“We’re trying to get everyone out of their houses,” said manager Charlie Fernandez.
Wade Agency LLC, a local insurance company, is hosting a costume contest for children until the end of the month. Families can come by the company’s office to have a picture taken or submit photos online.
“We’re trying to make it something fun for the kiddos since they might not have access to as many things this year,” said owner Jennifer Wade.
Other ideas have been floated for alternative ways to celebrate, like hosting a virtual costume party, carving pumpkins with family members or having a scavenger-hunt style trick-or-treat search around the house.
This year’s Halloween is going to be a bit of a sacrifice, Jollon said, but the holiday as it used to be known will return, eventually.
“Everyone loves the opportunity to dress up in a costume and celebrate, and this year, we’re asking for people to make those sacrifices,” she said. “We will have future opportunities.”