Community organizers across La Salle and Bureau counties admit trick-or-treating during a pandemic is going to be a challenge.
Instead of canceling this holiday tradition, however, organizers have become more creative to ensure those who participate remain safe.
The Ottawa Downtown Merchants, for example, created Unhappily Ever After, a drive-thru haunted trail that will begin at dusk on Halloween at Allen Park.
Dylan Conmy of Prairie Fox Books said the goal was to find an activity suitable for all ages but safer than the typical trick-or-treat.
“Obviously, regular trick-or-treating in town on a good day is busy, so we wanted to think of something where we could still have some sort of Halloween in a year where everything keeps getting canceled and changed,” Conmy said. “All attendees will stay in their car, and there’s going to be haunted versions of classic fairy tales as you make your way through Allen Park.”
Conmy said sponsors from the Downtown Merchants have stepped up and they are dedicated to providing a safe event for the community.
“This is a safe alternative for those who don’t want to go door to door,” Conmy said. “You stay in your car and the kids still get candy.”
The Illinois Department of Public Health released guidelines Wednesday that said the safest way to celebrate is to stay home and plan virtual gatherings.
Gatherings of more than 50 people, or more than 49% of a building’s maximum occupancy, are prohibited.
“The more time you spend at a gathering, the closer the contact, the more people, the higher your risk of exposure to COVID-19,” health officials wrote.
That’s why the Streator Downtown Area Businesses annual trick-or-treat is encouraging businesses to stay outdoors.
Streator’s Downtown Area Businesses Trick-or-Treat still is scheduled to take place on Halloween, 9 a.m. to noon, barring unexpected circumstances or a turn for the worse in regard to the novel coronavirus in the area.
“The consensus at this time from the business owners and people who participate on an annual basis from downtown and other areas – because some businesses come downtown to participate – is to go ahead with it and have our Downtown Trick-or-Treat,” event organizer Toni Pettit said.
“We just have to have some trust and faith in our business community and our community as a whole that we can make good, safe decisions,” she said.
“We are encouraging the businesses to give the candy from outside their buildings instead of inside,” Pettit said. “There are some clever ways to create candy shoots, for the candy to shoot out to your trick-or-treaters. It could be really fun, and we’re hoping some of the businesses get creative with it.”
Several communities have already announced they will have door-to-door trick-or-treating, including Peru, Princeton, Marseilles and Seneca. Utica and Oglesby boards have said they will address trick-or-treating at their next board meetings.
La Salle Mayor Jeff Grove said the city intends to move forward with citywide trick-or-treating, but there are no plans to move forward with a downtown trick-or-treating event at this time. The Lions Club Halloween parade in Spring Valley is a no-go at this time.
Grove, like Marseilles Mayor Jim Hollenbeck, said with citywide trick-or-treating it leaves it up to parents on whether they feel it is safe to participate and the same goes for residents giving out treats. Hollenbeck said he trusts residents to practice social distancing and handwashing.
Peru officials released a variety of safety guidelines they encourage everyone who intends to participate in the Halloween festivities to follow, including considering one-way directions while using the sidewalks, welcoming trick-or-treaters before they have to knock or ring doorbells, contactless candy giving, wearing masks or incorporating one into a costume, giving out only pre-packaged treats.
According to the IDPH, those who are participating in trick-or-treating, including people passing out candy, should maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet and wear proper face coverings trick-or-treaters should participate in groups with household members only, per state health officials. State health officials wrote people also should consider leaving individually wrapped candy that is spaced apart on a table in driveways or in front of walkways, sidewalks or other outdoor spaces where 6-feet of distance can be maintained.
Conmy said they’ve had to cancel several events this year to avoid risk, so organizers have been thinking outside of the box for ways to keep community morale up while still bringing people into Ottawa in a safe way that keeps the economy going.
“We’re just trying to let people know we’re here for them and we’re very grateful for the shopping and support that people have continued throughout this entire pandemic,” Conmy said. “The least we can do is continue to give back. We love our community and our shoppers.”
• The NewsTribune and The Times will publish a full listing of town-wide trick-or-treating events throughout the area at a later date.