Local ghouls, goblins and costumed youngsters will still enjoy Hallowe’en courtesy of the District of Houston but it will be a modified affair thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of a traditional venue.
In recent years the District had enjoyed a partnership with the PV Plaza, which featured a haunted house, but with that business now closed, the District’s leisure services staff will instead host a free public swim on Oct. 31.
And there will be a candy distribution program consisting of donated candy.
“The District of Houston has organized a candy donation program for well over 25 years. Citizens are welcome to drop off a candy or cash donation to the municipal office or pool and in return they get a sign,” explained leisure services director Tasha Kelly.
“This says they donated to the Hallowe’en party and they post it on their door Hallowe’en night. As Houston was notoriously a shift work town, it helped those who could not be at home or would prefer not to answer the door.”
The task now is to figure out the logistics of how the candy will be distributed, she said.
Leisure services staffers will be altering pool hours Oct. 31 to accommodate more swimmers.
“Pre-registration will be required so that we do not exceed our maximum numbers of 35 as outlined in our safety protocol,” said Kelly.
Council made the decision to continue with a Hallowe’en event and candy distribution Oct. 6 after considering options presented by leisure services director Tasha Kelly.
“This partnership [with the PV Plaza] was extremely valuable to the leisure services department and helped keep expenditures low,” she outlined in a memo to council, noting that upwards of 500 people participated.
Expenditures were kept below $1,000 and that included a $200 top up of candy bags, Kelly added. In previous years, candy donations were dropped off at the municipal office and the leisure centre.
Houston staffers participated in a BC Recreation and Parks Association conference call in which ideas were discussed on how to plan an event in light of the pandemic.
Other options presented by Kelly included a smaller scale haunted house which would require a location and someone to operate it and a drive-by parade which would have the benefit of no-contact and which would also increase community participation.
Speaking about Hallowe’en, Houston mayor Shane Brienen said he expected there will still be trick or treating within the community.
But he said parents would take COVID precautions to safeguard children and that the same would be true of residents wishing to hand out Hallowe’en treats.
“I think people will be safe. We do live in a different world nowadays,” he said.
Provincial medical health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has given the green light to trick or treating but has urged people to take precautions relating to physical distancing and how treats are handed out.
A BC Centre for Disease Control Hallowe’en tip sheet asks people to stay away from busy areas in order to keep a safe distance and to trick-or-treat in groups of no more than six people. Hand washing before and after trick-or-treating, before eating any candy, is encouraged.
Those who do hand out treats should consider so using tongs or a baking sheet, to wear a non-medical mask and, where possible, to stand outside.
Remember to keep you pets inside that evening in case of fire works.