People who have never been to a Halloween on Maple Street in Bangor might not believe it when they’re told that each year, thousands of people crowd the residential street on the city’s East Side. Residents there almost universally love it, with many putting up elaborate decorations and spending hundreds of dollars on candy to hand out.
This year, however, the majority of Maple Street residents are asking the hordes of trick-or-treaters who descend on the neighborhood to please, just this year, stay away. They don’t want to risk hosting such a large gathering of people who could potentially cause a COVID-19 outbreak.
“The majority of us will have our lights out on Halloween, as much as I hate to say it,” said Maple Street resident LyAnn Grogan. “I just can’t justify encouraging people to gather in large groups. And I don’t think people realize the insanity of Maple Street.”
Grogan spent last weekend going door to door, asking her neighbors what they plan to do. Though some do intend to answer the door with candy, Grogan said the majority don’t plan to. The overall attitude is that people want folks who don’t live on the East Side or in Bangor at all to please stick to their own neighborhoods this year, if they plan to trick-or-treat.
“I just genuinely hope people stay in their own neighborhoods this year,” Grogan said. “That’s the safe thing to do. We’d like our own kids to be able to trick-or-treat in their own neighborhood safely as well.”
Chris Rudolph, another Maple Street resident, said that he didn’t think Halloween needed to be canceled outright — but that Maple Street is just a different beast entirely from the more traditional trick-or-treating seen in other Bangor neighborhoods.
“We’re not talking about not doing Halloween, period. We’re talking about not doing it here, on Maple Street, specifically,” Rudolph said. “You’re not talking about a traditional Halloween, when you talk about Maple Street. You’re talking about thousands of people, all showing up at around the same time.”
On Wednesday, the city of Bangor sent out Halloween safety guidelines that largely hew to the recommendations made by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. CDC. In addition to general advice to wear masks (those that cover the mouth and nose, not necessarily the spooky, costume kind), stay six feet apart from others and not be indoors with people who don’t live in your household, Bangor and the state suggest that activities held at home with small groups of people.
Family pumpkin-carving parties or scavenger hunts are lower-risk, while events such as socially distant, no-touch trick-or-treating or costume parties held outdoors are moderate-risk. Traditional trick-or-treating and indoor events are considered high-risk.
On Bangor’s West Side, the streets surrounding Fairmount Park have also been a popular trick-or-treating destination, though not on the level seen on Maple Street. There, a more traditional neighborhood trick-or-treat is geared toward families who actually live in the area.
Bangor City Councilor Gretchen Schaefer lives on McLaughlin Street with her husband and two daughters, and said she planned to put candy in little bags on a table on her front porch and greet trick-or-treaters from a safe distance from her door. Schaefer said she’d heard from other neighbors that they plan to distribute candy via a “candy chute,” a six-foot-long tube that they can send individually-wrapped candy down and into a trick-or-treater’s receptacle.
Her husband Dave will take her daughters out trick-or-treating, though Schaefer said that if there’s a big spike in cases in Penobscot County between now and Oct. 31, they are prepared to pull the plug on the whole thing. And of course, everyone will be wearing masks.
“This will be the first year I don’t go out with them, but my thought is that means one less person on the street, and I can have one more safe Halloween house,” Schaefer said. “Halloween is a big deal for our family. We got married on Halloween. It’s our favorite holiday. But we’ll only do it if it’s safe.”
Grogan hopes that everyone can simply exercise common sense when it comes to their Halloween activities this year. She and her Maple Street neighbors are disappointed that they won’t be able to host their annual Halloween extravaganza, but she said she hopes that next year — once the major threat from COVID-19 has passed — they will come back better than ever.
“It’s a Saturday, it’s a full moon, Mercury is in retrograde and we get an extra hour because it’s the time change. The stars are all aligned for the most epic Halloween ever,” Grogan said of Halloween 2020. “Of course I’m sad. But I’m going to make a sign for our lawn that says ‘See you in 2021.’ We want people to come back next year.”