In Garfield County’s season of the pandemic, crowds — not witches — seen as spooky | PostIndependent.com
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In Garfield County’s season of the pandemic, crowds — not witches — seen as spooky

Towns find ways to discourage, not ban, trick or treating either through fun activities or strict guidelines.

Dan England
For the Post Independent
Tips for Halloween:
  • Indoor Halloween parties are discouraged this year, but it may be OK to host an event outside that promote safe practices pushed for months, include frequent hand-washing, social distancing and wearing masks. One event could be a Halloween movie this year on a garage door with a small group sitting apart from one another. 
  • Here is a social distancing calculator to ensure that everyone stays 6 feet apart.
  • Adhere to state guidance for your specific event and see the Halloween Guidance for Event Planners link.
  • Have your kids wait up to 72 hours before digging into Halloween candy collected while you trick-or-treat. COVID-19 can survive three days on some surfaces. Parents should buy extra candy ahead of time to give to kids while they wait. 
  • Communicate with your neighbors to plan out trick-or-treating this year. There are ways to hand out candy with slides, tubes or pipes, or maybe play catch with them with candy pieces. You can also place candy at the end of a driveway, scattered about, so kids can pick up a piece.
  • Children’s Hospital of Colorado has a Halloween Tips, Tricks, and Treats page.
• Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Halloween Tips and Tricks

At first, some of the neighbors of Old Town in River Valley Ranch wondered what they could do to keep Halloween safe instead of turning off the porch lights. Maybe they could toss candy at the kids? Maybe set out bowls? Maybe even have a slide in the front yard where they could send candy down the chute? They exchanged ideas and thoughts, sometimes coated with emotion, like chocolate over a peanut bar, on a Facebook page. 

Halloween is a big deal anyway, but in the Carbondale neighborhood, it’s a Super Bowl-sized event, with more than 2,000 kids swooping through their streets. Even in our season of the pandemic, it seemed crazy to shut down trick-or-treating.

“There was a lot of back and forth,” said Sarah-Jane Johnson, a homeowner in the neighborhood. 

But then neighbors became spooked about a rising number of cases, to the point where health officials are calling it a nationwide second wave, and worried about ruining the chances of their schools reopening in the next couple of weeks. Upon hearing the news that Aspen’s most popular neighborhood will close on Halloween, the consensus was River Valley should probably do it as well. The porch lights, as it turns out, will go off. Neighbors even released an official statement:

“Our neighborhood, which has a tradition of being the happening place for enjoying Trick or Treating and Halloween festivities in Carbondale each year, instead asks the community to respect our space by not coming into Old Town in River Valley Ranch,” the statement read in part. 

Carbondale, like many Colorado towns across Garfield County (and really all over the state) are discouraging trick or treating this year while attempting to offer fun alternatives. Johnson calls it “the right thing to do,” as she’s part of the Carbondale Emergency Task Force, a volunteer organization led by residents to help the town figure out all the tricky dilemmas caused by COVID-19 this year. The task force also recommended parents to do something other than trick-or-treat. Carbondale’s mayor, Dan Richardson, agrees, saying parents should take “a different approach to Halloween this year.”

“Naturally, children are likely to have a hard time remembering to wash their hands, keep their masks on, and practice social distancing when they are excited about Halloween candy,” Richardson said, “so we strongly urge parents and the community to consider doing it differently.”

Perhaps as a carrot — or maybe a chocolate bar — the Carbondale Police Department will act as a de facto candy distributor. Officers usually hand out glow sticks to kids on Halloween. This year it’s goodie bags. The first 2,000 kids 13 and younger who request one either by social media or calling the police department during business hours (970-963-2662) will get a bag.

The Garfield County Library Carbondale branch will also offer a chance to carve a pumpkin on the back patio from Oct. 27-29. Between 5-7 p.m. on Oct. 30, you can vote for the best pumpkin at the library (patrons can take their pumpkin home if they don’t want to be famous), with the top three getting a prize. 

Glenwood Springs and Rifle are taking a similar approach, although the public health department isn’t forbidding trick-or-treating, just offering ways to enjoy it and remain safe, if that’s possible. 

Halloween isn’t canceled. It’s just quieter this year, as Amy Kimberly, executive director of Carbondale Arts, put it.

Carbondale

There may not be a more stark example of the way COVID-19 has stripped away our fun more than Carbondale’s Dia de los Muertos. 

The Day of the Dead on Nov. 1 is actually a lively celebration that honors loved ones who have passed on with dancing, music and a whole lot of fun. Carbondale developed a reputation as the place to be for the Dia in the last decade, even more than Halloween. When you ask Amy Kimberly about it this year, she just sighs. She is the Carbondale Arts executive director, and she was in charge of coordinating everything. This year, that was an easier, albeit more painful, task. She couldn’t put together a procession of more than 200 dancers, singers and costumed community members. She can’t even allow people to gather at the altar to shout the names of their loved ones and have those names be echoed by the crowd because, well, there’s a crowd. 

She did try. She reached out to a ballet folklore dancing troupe but was turned down. 

“I get it,” said Kimberly, with the tone of a kid who’s been turned down by a busy parent too many times for a game of catch. “Nobody can take risks right now.

“It’s just difficult these days. We’re very sad. It was such a cross-cultural event for us.”

Kimberly does have a couple of ways to celebrate, even as she knows they’re muted in comparison to years past. The first is a community altar hosted by the Valley Settlement Project that will be created on Nov. 2 and run to Nov. 6 at The Launchpad, 76 South Fourth St. Those who celebrate build altars to honor their loved ones with symbols of their favorite foods, pastimes or clothing as well as pictures and the more traditional symbols such as flowers and sugar skulls. 

Kimberly hopes Carbondale residents create their own altars in their yards and let the Arts organization know, so maybe she can create a map for people to go around to see all of them, in the same way communities create maps of cool Christmas decorations. 

The second way to celebrate, scheduled for Nov. 6, will be a virtual First Friday and will feature the customs of the day, including instructions on how to paint your face in the calavera style and a look at how other communities are celebrating. That stream will be on the Thunder River Theatre Company’s website. 

“You will still get that feeling, I think,” she said. “But it will be a little quieter.”

Quieter is right, as other parties and events were canceled, many at the last minute, much like River Valley Ranch’s decision to shut down. KDNK Community Radio usually hosted what it called “an adult party,” with live music, costumes and goodies. This year the station considered offering a family-friendly, socially distanced event, maybe something like pumpkin carving, but after Garfield County’s public health department released guidelines on staying away from trick or treating, the station decided to cancel everything. 

“We decided it would be best to not even do a daytime event,” said Greg Albrecht, development director at the station, “both for safety in general as well as public perception. There’s no reason to push that.”

Rifle and New Castle

Rifle may be quiet this year, as City Manager Scott Hahn said he hadn’t heard of anything going on. But one place is attempting to pick up the slack. 

Columbine Ford will host a Trunk or Treat for the first time this year. This is a strange time to try to host a public event when you’ve never done one before, but that’s part of the point, said Bethany Duggan, business development manager for the car dealership. In fact, it will be the first in a series of holiday events the dealership will host through December. 

“We know everyone is struggling right now,” Duggan said, “and we just want to be there for them.”

The dealership has the space to do it, she said, with a giant parking lot to help everyone stay spread out. The event, from 4-6 p.m. Oct. 30, will allow kids to enter through the north, one way, and exit with candy and surprises at a few different stations. 

“I know people aren’t feeling safe about going door-to-door,” Duggan said, “and I know we have the ability to put in precautions with that giant parking lot. We want you to come and bring your kids down, have a good time and enjoy the holidays the best that we can.”

The New Castle branch of the Garfield libraries will offer Halloween fun at 1 p.m. on Halloween Day at the Town Hall/Library plaza. Costumes are encouraged.

Glenwood Springs

The phones were ringing at Garfield County Public Health this year even two months before Halloween. But since the health department released a detailed list of guidelines, they’ve been quieter, just like the holiday. 

“There are so many details, laws and regulations now that sometimes it’s confusing,” said Carrie Godes, the public information officer for the public health department. 

Those guidelines include strict adherences to trick-or-treating, including limiting the time at doorways, parents policing social distancing for their excited kids and wearing a mask, even under or over a costume, just as you sometimes have to wear a winter coat over it as well, Godes said. The recommendations also include avoiding crowds, and that one makes Godes cringe a bit. 

“We think we can do some trick-or-treating as long as we stick to those precautions we’ve been preaching for so long,” Godes said. “But we are concerned about people clogging up those doors. I know this personally: Even the most cautious kids forget about social distancing when they’re around a bowl of candy.”

Residents who have health concerns, or those spooked by the virus, shouldn’t feel bad about turning off their porch light, Godes said. This is the year to do that. Maybe they can hand out salted caramel apples or something special next year to make up for it. 

As a way to help families who don’t feel safe trick-or-treating, Glenwood Springs’ recreation department will offer a scavenger hunt, which are usually socially distanced anyway, and a Charlie Brown Great Pumpkin patch and a few haunted houses in the parking lot. All of these replace the big haunted house the recreation center usually puts on. The event will be scaled down from past years, said Pat Miller, recreation manager for Glenwood Springs, but it may feel larger, as the offerings will be spread out more. The event takes place from 1-5 p.m. on Halloween day. Register in advance for $5.

Miller and the city will also drop off pumpkins and 250 pieces of candy to downtown businesses that sign up for a week-long Halloween event that starts Oct. 26. Businesses can carve the pumpkin and hide it in their store, and patrons can take a photo of the pumpkin and tag it “#glenwoodrec for a chance at prizes.

Both events are designed to remove the sting of forgoing trick-or-treating if they have to this year. 

“The kids are still feeling like they are interacting and going around and getting candy, but obviously in a socially distanced way,” Miller said. “If we can help them feel back to normal even for a bit, we will consider that a win.”

Safer frights are available. The Glenwood Springs Historical Society will offer a virtual ghost walk this year as an alternative to the in-person fundraiser it offers every year, the society’s largest. That takes place at 7 p.m. Oct. 22 at http://www.glenwoodhistory.com/ghost-walk, and for a donation, you can watch ghosts walk the cemetery and talk about their connections with their underground neighbors. 

“It’ll be just like going, only you’ll get a neat experience with some special effects,” said Lisa Langer, the director of tourism promotion for Visit Glenwood Springs. Langer herself portrays Big Nose Kate, the common-law wife of Doc Holliday. She will stand in front of Holliday’s grave and talk about their relationship. Versatile Productions and the True Media Foundation put together the presentation.

Maybe she was just searching for any way to enjoy the holiday, but Langer noticed that a lot of people did decorate their homes this year. 

“I decorated mine too,” she said.


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