Costumes and candies vs. COVID-19

A full disclosure of Oak Park’s Halloween 2020

Flyer for Ranch Simi’s Halloween event in Oak Park (Photo Courtesy of Rancho Simi)

It’s that time of year again. The moon rises in painful deliberation, barely hiding behind that shadowed tree. Just faintly, in a distance, a wolf lets out a small cry from its lips. It rings louder than the silence in the air, and at once everything is set into motion. The monsters come out and roam freely, while ghosts wail and devils cackle. Vampires scheme, drooling ever so slightly. Witches skip around cauldrons. Oblivious, children walk from door to door, baskets of candies in their hands, swaying slightly with parallel enthusiasm. 

Oh, what fun! Houses after houses; the night has finally begun.

Halloween has always proven a soft spot for most Americans (or perhaps one could call it a sweet spot). There was always a distinct contrast in the atmosphere toward the approaching October. Perhaps it was excitement. Pumpkins, candies, costumes, decorations. Wrappers on the floor. Tongues still relishing the leftover flavor of the last piece of candy. In the eyes of many, Halloween was unconditionally and irrevocably the best night ever.

Notice the past tense.

Reminiscing about last year’s Halloween was usually a leisure pastime, yet it may be the leading manner of celebration this October as COVID-19 has deprived us of trick-or-treating.

From March 2020, we have been stuck in a state of quarantine, hoping that it will cease after a week, maybe another month. The virus has denied us of all kinds of observances: birthdays, pool parties, friendly gatherings. Will it conquer this mere little holiday as well, or will we stand strong and firm on our traditional Halloween?

Most predict somewhere in between. While some believe that parties between close friends will still happen, the popular argument remains that large gatherings will be contained to a virtual setting. The safety of individuals is, after all, the most mature priority.

As a result, large events and trick-or-treating are now listed as not recommended by Ventura County,with the chief concern being the health and well-being of our community. Still, the situation, especially confirmations about cancelling long-going traditions, is depressing for many. Most students feel lost about how to celebrate Halloween, and thankfully, there are still many ways students can celebrate in the festivity of Halloween while maintaining social distancing and safety protocols.

While an actual trick-or-treating through the neighborhood might be missed by many, drive through events such as The Halloween Masquerade Parade hosted by the Rancho Simi Recreation Park District on Halloween day can be a fun experience and a relief for most parents.

This parade, held at the Oak Canyon Community Park, is going to include a scavenger hunt, decorations and of course, trick-or-treating. 

“[The parade] is entirely safe,” recreational coordinator Jeannie Liss said. “We will make sure that the six foot distancing is adhered by everybody, and no one can get out of their car. The community partners along with staff and volunteers will be handing out [candy], but they will be at a distance, and will be spaced out as well. All community partners, staff, and volunteers will have gloves and masks on. So it all should be very, very safe.” 

The entire event is COVID compliant, and throughout the planning process the organizers were constantly in check with the County of Ventura. 

The plan is for the event to be from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. There will be 18 Trick-or-Treat stations which will be spaced out from each other. The kids are encouraged to come and dress up in costumes. If they haven’t already printed the form, they will be given one when they first enter, encouraging them to spot things in the decorations from the window of the vehicle. The trick-or-treating will be happening through the windows as well. As they leave the park, kids will turn in their scavenger hunt form for a chance to win drawing prizes. The drawing will happen later that day and winners will be notified early the following week.

To avoid contaminating the candy with the COVID-19 virus, the candy will be opened right then and there. This year, getting out of the car and walking around is not permitted. The parade structure also doesn’t make any room for it, since it is a flow of cars. Furthermore, all individuals stationed at the vendors are required to wear a mask. And although, according to Liss, the parents and children driving through the parade don’t have to, it is highly suggested to attend wearing a mask.

“We started doing these carnivals because we wanted to offer kids a safe place to go, because some parents didn’t want their kids to go trick-or-treating,” Liss said. “People aren’t going to be giving out candy, so we are just trying to make sure that kids still have a place to go, and something to do, a little bit of normalcy. We just hope that everyone will have a little bit of fun.”

The Rancho Simi Recreation Park District usually organizes the Halloween Carnival every year at Oak Canyon Community Center, and has been doing so for the past 17 years. However, their response to the unique circumstances was to alter the plans and move the party from inside to outside. 

On the other hand, Oak Park Unified School District has a little bit of a different approach.

“None of the schools will be open on Halloween,” Dr. Tony Knight said, confirming an unwillingness to compromise the safety of students and families. “[But on Wednesday] night the Board approved the schools opening – January 5 elementary and January 11 secondary.” 

So while students will be permitted to return to campus following winter break, the schools are not ready to welcome all the ghosts, witches, and devils just yet. 

The word from Principal Kevin Buchanan from Oak Park High School was that the usual plans of allowing students to wear costumes on campus during school hours will simply not happen. 

“I just hope that any students who plan to celebrate Halloween do it safely, observing all the COVID safety protocols,” Buchanan wrote to the Talon. 

On Oct. 2, Oak Hills Elementary School’s principal Eric Warren expressed his regret that there will be no Halloween celebrations for the elementary children.

This can be such a fun time for young children, and the usual costumed events at school have created many great childhood memories for sure. But this year we will not have students on campus to celebrate this event so no parades or parties are possible. We do have a responsibility to ensure the safety of our students when they are under our care, and encourage safe behaviors when they are outside of our care,” Warren wrote to the Talon.

Erin Vranesh, principal of Brookside Elementary, and Mrs. Stacy LaFrenz, principal of Red Oak Elementary, are on the same page, according to Warren.

Overall, the district is trying to steer away from the customary events, hoping only for the safety of the students. They have concluded that campuses will not be open — Halloween is a Saturday, after all — and in-person activities regulated by the district will not be held. 

“You can spread the virus like wildfire,” Knight said. “I wouldn’t suggest teenagers going to parties, nor would I advise trick-or-treating, because that isn’t safe or allowed. We are not going to stop any virtual celebrations, but that would be something that is up to ASB. Maybe everyone could come online in a costume, and you can have a virtual contest. Whatever you plan on doing, follow the rules that we are supposed to be following.”

While social distancing measures have cancelled many traditional methods of celebrating, there are a wide range of safe options left to consider, with creativity being the key. Unexpected times call for unprecedented ideas, and this year, it will be exciting to see the various ways families and friends will stand out and celebrate this holiday. 

“We just have to learn how to be strong and resilient through this whole thing. It’s not easy, and it’s definitely not over yet, but we just have to buckle down longer. It’s not something worth risking getting the virus and spreading it around to other people where someone could end up in the hospital. We have to be strong, we can’t be weak and give in to these kinds of things. We have to just do what we know is safe, and that’s just it,” Knight said. 

As always, stay safe and healthy. The Talon wishes you a wonderful and happy Halloween!