BELFAST, Maine — Every Halloween, 2,000 or so kids and parents congregate on Cedar Street in Belfast to trick-or-treat in the midst of a giddy, costumed crowd.
This year, as with so many favorite traditions, the coronavirus pandemic has changed that. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classified trick-or-treating a “higher risk activity,” and in a bid to minimize crowds, Belfast officials decided against blocking off the street to vehicular traffic.
“Cedar Street will not be closed. The police department will not be maintaining it closed,” Mayor Eric Sanders said last week during a city council meeting. “And we are not having the Cedar Street festival of trick-or-treating this year that we have had in years past, due to wanting to maintain safety in the community.”
The city isn’t banning trick-or-treating outright, as has happened in some communities, including Springfield, Worcester and Lawrence, Massachusetts. But Sanders encouraged would-be trick-or-treaters — and houses that participate in the activity — to minimize as much risk as possible. He suggested avoiding large groups, wearing a separate face mask under a costume mask, being aware of vehicles and following pedestrian safety rules.
“It’s common sense stuff here, folks,” Sanders said. “Be safe. Be mindful of others. And please wear a mask.”
Even before the city’s decision to not have police block the street to vehicular traffic, some Cedar Street residents already had planned not to take part in any festivities this Halloween. Those include David Crabiel, whose family goes all out with decorating their home as they prepare to hand out candy to the 1,500 or so children who usually make it to their end of the street.
A few of his neighbors had made the same decision, he said.
“We were a little nervous about [the virus] possibly spreading between kids,” he said.
But Mary Ruoff, who also lives on Cedar Street, said that she anticipates at least some trick-or-treaters will come to her home as usual.
“I really do not know if we will have a lot of people or not. I don’t feel like there won’t be anybody,” she said.
For those who dare, they’ll find candy and a grisly Hallween scene, courtesy of her 16-year-old son, who is in charge of the decorations this year.
It’ll include a graveyard, complete with bodies, a butcher shop area on the porch and a restaurant where it might be better not to ask what’s on the menu.
“Halloween is one of my favorite holidays,” Dima Hodsdon, Ruoff’s son, said. “It’s pretty wacky. It might terrify small children. That’s kind of what I’m going for.”
But Ruoff is planning to make at least a couple of changes, including modifying how she’ll distribute candy in order to reduce lines and create more distance between trick-or-treaters. She also hopes that people who don’t want to trick-or-treat will check out the decorations either before or after Halloween.
“That would be awesome if that works for them,” she said.
Crabiel, though, is just looking forward to next year’s Halloween.
“We’re definitely going to miss it. We absolutely love doing it,” he said. “It’s too bad, but it’ll be back. Too many people love it.”