Chicago plans ‘Halloweek’ full of activities to minimize trick-or-treating crowds
The celebration City Hall calls “Halloweek” begins Monday, Oct. 26. Trick-or-treating can start then and continue through Halloween, which falls on a Saturday this year. Groups going door-to-door are asked to keep moving and keep it small — six people or less.
Chicago plans a week full of trick-or-treating and city-sponsored Halloween activities to safely celebrate the popular holiday during the pandemic, a costumed Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Thursday.
Lightfoot entered a City Hall news conference to spooky music with a plastic pale filled with candy she distributed to those in attendance.
She was wearing a black eye mask, a red cape emblazoned with the words “Rona Destroyer,” as in coronavirus, and a giant chest board that featured Clorox disinfectant wipes. Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady was wearing a blue “Rona Destroyer” cape with a hand sanitizer chest board.
The celebration City Hall calls “Halloweek” will begin Monday, Oct. 26.
Trick-or-treating can start then and continue through Halloween, which falls on a Saturday this year.
Groups going door-to-door are asked to “keep it small” — to groups of six or fewer, preferably in their own “household bubble” — and “keep it moving.”
After giving the green light to trick-or-treating throughout the week, Lightfoot was asked what would prevent kids from ringing doorbells Monday-through-Saturday. She never directly answered the question.
“The reality is, people are gonna trick or treat. So, we’re dealing with that reality. We’re trying to spread it out over the course of the week,” the mayor said.
“Telling people not to trick or treat isn’t realistic. They’re gonna trick or treat. Let’s just make sure that we do it in a safe and responsible way in the time of a pandemic.”
Costumed kids and adults who accompany them are required to wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth beneath any Halloween mask.
Homes welcoming trick-or-treaters are asked to leave a light on or hang a Halloween sign in their windows to let the ghouls and goblins know they’re handing out candy safely.
Anyone handing out candy also must wear a mask. They’re advised to provide hand sanitizer and maintain 6 feet of social distance, “perhaps by using a tube or pipe to drop candy into the bags of trick-or-treaters from a distance.”
House parties — no matter the size — are strictly prohibited. So are traditional haunted houses, which are “truly spooky and dangerous this year,” Arwady said.
“Think about enclosed spaces and people screaming and being surprised and not keeping social distancing. There really is concern honestly about this,” the commissioner said.
As for the ban on house parties, Arwady said, “We’re honestly more worried about COVID spread among adults gathering to celebrate Halloween indoors than we are about children outdoors trick-or-treating.”
City Hall and the Chicago Park District plan to fill the pandemic-induced void in a holiday that is as popular with adults as it is with kids with a week full of city-sponsored activities. They include:
• “Halloweek on the Block,” featuring “surprise pop-ups on residential streets.” The weeklong program is co-sponsored by Xfinity, the Chicago Police Department, the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks.
• Halloween-themed virtual and in-person programs throughout the week at Park District facilities and public libraries.
• 10,000 bags filled with candy and other treats distributed throughout the week by Blommer Chocolate Company. Some bags will include “golden tickets” that can be redeemed for a 10-pound bar of Blommer’s chocolate.
Los Angeles County has banned Halloween trick-or-treating, but Lightfoot was not about to do the same. She loves the holiday and knows how important it is to give kids “something to look forward to,” particularly this year.
But the mayor was equally determined to avoid “mass crowds trick-or-treating like have in years past.”
“With these guidelines, we are making sure that children and adults [who] want to enjoy Halloween can do so without putting themselves or their community at risk,” she said.
Arwady urged Chicagoans to “use their creativity and imagination — not just on costumes and decorations,” but in conjuring up ways to “safely celebrate.” She then cited two examples: the pipe conduit for distributing candy and a “drive-in haunted alley” that allows people to “have that haunted house experience from the safety or your car.”
“The person who is giving candy can stand at the top end of the pipe, drop candy down. It goes through the PVC pipe and goes into the child’s bucket at the bottom,” she said.
Starting Oct. 18, Chicagoans can download a “Halloweek toolkit” filled with “safety messaging and signage” signaling their participation in the week of events.
The National Confectioners Association is doing its part to drum up excitement for Halloween, the busiest time of the year for candy makers.
The group released a survey showing sales of Halloween chocolate and other candy for the four weeks ending Sept. 6 was up 13% compared to the same period in 2019. The sale of Halloween chocolate alone rose 25.3%.
Two-thirds of those surveyed planned to participate in trick-or-treating this Halloween — either by handing out candy or taking their children door-to-door.
The candy makers also claim a mounting sense of optimism about finding safe and creative ways to celebrate Halloween, even during the pandemic — from 63% in July to 80% as of Thursday.