The Transylvania Times -

Officials: Celebrate Halloween 'Virtually' This Year


Last updated 10/21/2020 at 4:30pm

In 2019, the annual Halloweenfest took over downtown, despite the rainy weather. This year, COVID-19 means no street festivities, and the public is being asked to have its Halloween fun indoors. (Times photos)

A yearly tradition has seen clustered parades of children and adults in ghoulish garbs walking along leafy sidewalks and at front doors in their panhandling pursuit of candy on Halloween night in Brevard.

With the Brevard Police Department (BPD), however, not closing streets this year to prevent the facilitation of large groups of trick-or-treaters, the landscape of Halloween will change this Oct. 31.

Conventionally, on Halloween evening, families in Transylvania County gather to walk on Maple Street and in the Franklin Park area, where streets are closed for safety with the help of the Transylvania County Sheriff's Office and the Brevard Fire Department.

This year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued an official warning to parents to forgo traditional trick-or-treating, as well as attending "crowded costume parties held indoors" and "going to an indoor haunted house, where people may be crowded together and screaming."

Instead, the CDC is encouraging parents to stay at home with their children to carve pumpkins or hold a "virtual Halloween contest."

In a press release from Brevard Police Chief Phil Harris, Transylvania Public Health Director Elaine Russell and Public Health Educator Tara Rybka it is recommended, based on CDC guidelines, that traditional "trick-or-treating and costume parties be avoided in lieu of safer gatherings and events this year."

It is recommended to avoid higher risk activities, such as door-to-door trick-or-treating; trunk-or-treating, in which treats are handed out from the trunks of vehicles to children in sponsored parking lot; attending crowded costume parties held indoors; indoor haunted houses; hay or tractor rides; and to avoid the use of alcohol and drugs in order to prevent clouded judgment, which in turn contributes to risky behavior.

"If these higher risk activities are done, the CDC is suggesting a two-week quarantine for participants to assure they do not acquire Covid-19 and spread it to others," the press release stated.

Lower risk activities include carving a pumpkin with family at home or with close friends outside while maintaining social distancing, having a "Halloween scavenger hunt in the neighborhood with a list of Halloween-themed items to look for while walking outdoors," having a "virtual Halloween costume contest," and "having a Halloween movie night with your family."

"The CDC does not recommend handing out candy," the press release stated. "Some creative communities are having drive-thru versions of trunk-or-treat, where the people giving out candy handout pre-packaged bags as the cars drive through without candy recipients ever getting out of the cars. Though still a risk, if the people packaging the candy are very careful, the risk is lower than other activities."

Harris said the BPD has spoken with neighborhood representatives who have, in the past, given out candy and suggested not giving out candy this year.

"Transylvania County residents have done a great job of keeping the spread of COVID-19 under control," Harris said. "Every resident deserves credit for this. Halloween is a special time of year for our kids, but the risk of doing traditional trick-or-treat activities is too great to ignore. We are asking that parents seek other activities and options that are more easily managed than traditional trick-or-treating. We will not close the streets as we have in the past to discourage these activities. The risk of spreading COVID-19 is too great to ignore."

Russell said the Health Department supports BPD's decision to not close streets.

"However your family chooses to celebrate Halloween this year, the most important consideration is avoiding contact with people outside your immediate household," Russell said. "Yes, there is some risk of contracting COVID-19 from shared bowls of candy, but the much bigger risk comes from children and adults gathering together in groups."

Many events are being held virtually, such as the Heart of Brevard's (HOB) 38th Annual Halloweefest.

HOB has planned events that align with the CDC's guidelines.

"Halloweenfest, the popular fall festival held in downtown Brevard, is going virtual this October with a creative spin," the press release stated. "This year's events will include a weekend of online activities, including an online costume contest, make-up and pumpkin carving tutorials, and a special interview with a vampire, Transylvania's own, Dracula. Halloweenfest activities will run Oct. 30 and run through Nov. 1. The Heart of Brevard is excited to partner with The Transylvania Times to promote the annual Pumpkin Carving Contest. For the first time in the competition's history, downtown merchants are invited to participate by displaying their decorated pumpkins at their business downtown for judging."

Halloween costumes, decorations and candy is a nearly $9 billion dollar industry, according to the National Retail Foundation.

A survey from the NRF stated, "more than 148 million U.S. adults plan to participate in Halloween-related activities."

Among those celebrants, safe at-home activities ranked highest: 53 percent plan to decorate their homes, 46 percent plan to carve a pumpkin and 18 percent will dress up their pet.

Three-quarters say the virus is impacting their Halloween plans, the report stated, with participation down to 58 percent.

Seventeen percent say they plan to celebrate activties virtually.

Consumer spending is predicted to drop down to $8 billion, down from the $9 billion pent in 2019, due to the lack of participation.

According to the survey, more than 2.7 million children plan to dress as their favorite princess character, more than 1.8 million as Spiderman, more than 1.6 million as their favorite superhero, more than 1.3 million as a ghost and another 1.3 million will dress as Batman.


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