A Halloween How-To: COVID-19 edition

Creative ideas, expert information and suggestions from community members on how to celebrate this year

CLARK COUNTY — October is nearly over and the traditions of Halloween are up in the air for many across the region as the coronavirus pandemic rages on.

Not to fear though, the spookiness is not canceled, only modified. 

October is nearly over, and the traditions of Halloween are up in the air for many across the region as the coronavirus pandemic rages on. Not to fear though, the spookiness is not canceled, only modified. Photo illustration by Mike Schultz
October is nearly over, and the traditions of Halloween are up in the air for many across the region as the coronavirus pandemic rages on. Not to fear though, the spookiness is not canceled, only modified. Photo illustration by Mike Schultz

Multiple cities, including Battle Ground and Washougal, have adapted their annual Halloween and Harvest festivals to adhere to pandemic-related guidelines. When it comes to safe trick-or-treating, Clark County Public Health (CCPH) has provided some tips and ideas.

The folks at Porch.com also have put forth some creative ideas on how to stay safer and still have fun with your family and community. 

“Halloween may feel a little different this year, but with a little care and creativity, we can all celebrate the holiday safely,” said Clark County Health Officer and Public Health Director, Dr. Alan Melnick, in a release.

CCPH is recommending folks celebrate at home with people who all live together. Scavenger hunts at the house, scary movie nights, virtual costume contests, and decorating the outside of the house are all suggestions from CCPH that have gained traction with community members.

Attending crowded Halloween parties, trick-or-treating in large groups, or going on hayrides or tractor rides with people you don’t live with are riskier activities, according to CCPH. 

Porch.com echoes many of these cautions and ideas as well. Some ideas that have gained traction on their site include having a drive-up station at your house, having door-to-door trick-or-treating within the house for younger children, making Halloween pinatas, and even holding a neighborhood decorating contest. 

“The first thing that has to be stressed is the outbreak’s not over and it’s not going to take a break just because we’re on holiday,” John Scott Meschke, an environmental health specialist and professor at the University of Washington, told the Seattle Times earlier this month.

Meschke went on to say he could not imagine a scenario where 100 percent normal Halloween activities could resume safely.

Graphic courtesy of the city of Battle Ground
Graphic courtesy of the city of Battle Ground

CCPH sent out a list of advised precautions and courtesies they say families should undertake if embarking on more traditional house-hopping trick-or-treating:

  • Keep the group limited to members of your household.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from people in other groups.
  • Incorporate a snug cloth face covering into your costume. Plastic costume masks are not suitable replacements.
  • Wash your hands before and after trick-or-treating. Bring hand sanitizer to use while trick-or-treating.
  • Don’t touch your face with unwashed hands.
  • If you’re feeling sick, stay home.

When it comes to those staying in but still handing out treats to traveling tricksters, similar but specific suggestions from CCPH are to:

  • Create grab bags of treats, rather than having kids dig through a communal bowl of treats.
  • Set treats on a table outside and greet visitors from a lawn chair at least 6 feet away. Or try a creative approach, like sliding candy down a long tube.
  • Use little pumpkins or other markers on the ground to help visitors stay at least 6 feet apart.

When it comes to drive-by candy fun, the city of Battle Ground has jumped on the wagon, with their Halloween in the Park drive-thru trick-or-treat event at Kiwanis Park.  

“Ghosts, goblins, princesses, superheroes, cowboys and cowgirls, and costumed kids of all kinds are invited to drive-thru trick-or-treat at the park on Friday, Oct. 30 between 3:00 and 5:00 p.m.,” according to the city’s Parks and Recreation info. “Passenger kids in cars will be treated to a pre-packaged assortment of candies and goodies.”

Kiwanis Park is located at 422 SW 2nd Avenue just two blocks west of S. Parkway. Local businesses and organizations can partner with the city by sponsoring through a monetary or in-kind donation. More details are available by contacting Mattie Buckmiller, recreation and facilities supervisor by email at mattie.buckmiller@cityofbg.org

In Washougal, the city’s annual Pumpkin Harvest Festival is “On the Go.” In the past, the city hosted a gathering of families with many children dressed and ready for candy and fun at Reflection Plaza downtown.  

“With so many community events and gatherings being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we looked for a way to keep this treasured tradition alive,” said Washougal Mayor Molly Coston in a release. “So, we are taking the festival to our neighborhoods!”

The new version of the celebration will take place Saturday, Oct. 24, as city leaders and staff drive a parade with police and fire vehicles, as well as a truck and trailer filled with ripe orange pumpkins surrounded by hay bales, to five neighborhood parks. At each location, children will be given a goodie bag filled with Halloween toys and treats and of course, a free pumpkin of their very own, according to the city. 

The planned route and schedule is:

  • 9 a.m. Hamllik Park, 4285 Addy Street
  • 11 a.m. Hartwood Park, 2251 49th Street
  • 1 p.m. Oak Tree Park, 350 W Y Street
  • 3 p.m. Upper Hathaway Park, 799 – 25th Street
  • 5 p.m. Reflection Plaza, 1703 Main Street

“We want everyone to have fun and be safe,” explained Rose Jewell, event organizer and city of Washougal assistant to the city manager, in a release. “We are asking everyone to practice keeping six feet of physical distancing and staff will follow low-contact guidelines. And please, everyone wear a face covering, whether it is a part of your costume or not.”

For more details on the Washougal Pumpkin Harvest Festival, visit the city’s website.

Additional resources courtesy of Clark County Public Health:

Clark County Public Health, The city of Washougal and The city of Battle Ground contributed to this report. 


About The Author

Jacob Granneman is a filmmaker and writer from Clark County. He is a graduate of WSU Pullman’s Edward R. Murrow College where he studied journalism and media production. He has produced documentary stories all over the Pacific Northwest and abroad in Argentina. He has won a regional Emmy and Mark of Excellence award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his film work. His passions range from sharing the love of Jesus, to cinematography, to going on adventures in the most beautiful place on earth, i.e. his backyard. He lives with his wife and son in Vancouver, WA. Proverbs 16:3

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