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Residents find new ways to celebrate Halloween during COVID-19

Three revelers gather on Franklin Street on Halloween last year to perform a rap-off during the annual Halloween on Franklin event, an event that will be canceled this year due to the pandemic.

The pandemic has forced Chapel Hill and Carrboro residents to find more creative ways — from renting a farm to leaving goodie bags at the end of driveways — to celebrate Halloween.

The Town of Chapel Hill has canceled the annual Halloween celebration on Franklin Street this year. This celebration is a popular tradition among UNC students, who crowd downtown on the night of Halloween, often in costume.

Maurice Jones, Chapel Hill's town manager, said the Town discourages large crowds and will not close off downtown Chapel Hill to traffic as it has done in previous years.

“We recognize folks need an outlet during these incredibly challenging times," Jones said. "Halloween is a fun tradition for children and adults alike, so we want people to relax and enjoy the day, but in a safe manner that limits the possible spread of the virus. We would prefer not to see large gatherings.”

UNC sophomore Eric Schneider said he did not get the opportunity to go to Franklin Street last year. 

“I really wanted to, but it was very rainy," Schneider said. "If I knew COVID would happen, I would’ve gone anyway."

However, he said that he understands that it’s important to be safe. He said he will probably leave a bowl with candy out on his front step and spend his Halloween night doing homework.

For people with children, trick-or-treating during a pandemic is a new conundrum. On the county website, the Orange County Health Department lists Halloween activities according to their level of risk. 

A few examples of high-risk activities are going door to door to trick-or-treat, handing out treats from car trunks that are lined up in large parking lots and attending indoor crowded costume parties. 

Alternative activities listed as low-risk included examples such as carving pumpkins, holding scavenger hunts with members in a household and virtual activities. 

Aja Kelleher, a Carrboro resident and mother to an 11-year-old daughter, said she has taken a different approach. Her family will not trick-or-treat or hand out candy, and will instead do an outdoor costume party with several other families in a “pandemic pod.”

Kelleher said her daughter is part of a “pandemic pod” with six kids, a group that only socializes with each other and is careful about who they come into contact with. They are renting a farm where the kids can do virtual school and outdoor activities with each other while staying socially distanced, and this is where the party will be held. 

Attending an outdoor costume party was one of the activities the Orange County Health Department listed as moderate-risk. Other moderate-risk activities the department listed included lining up individually wrapped goodie bags at the end of your driveway for families to grab while trick-or-treating, or having an outdoor costume parade.

Kelleher said that her daughter, like many kids, finds remote learning very isolating, so the pod is a way for them to maintain a sense of normalcy.

“The kids love the idea that the space would be decorated, that they would get to wear costumes, and that there would be treats and music," Kelleher said. "And we were just like, 'Oh, it’s better that we get to celebrate than do nothing.'" 


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