For islanders who are wondering how to celebrate what has always been one of Vashon’s most community-packed and raucous holidays, Melissa Schafer, vice-president of The Vashon-Maury Island Chamber of Commerce has a message: Halloween isn’t canceled.
“Fun doesn’t have to be canceled,” she said. “But this year, it’s safety that matters.”
Schafer is in charge of messaging how the Chamber, in partnership with Vashon’s Emergency Operations Center and VashonBePrepared, is approaching Halloween in 2020 — which this year will not include the closure of Vashon Hwy., in the middle of town, to trick-or-treaters.
For decades, The Chamber has handled the logistics of Vashon’s celebration of the night, by closing off the streets and providing security to allow small costumed goblins to roam free, trick-or-treating with their parents at downtown businesses. The celebration has long had a Mardi-Gras-like atmosphere, with bands of roving teenagers and costumed adults joining the party as the night wears on.
But this year, pandemic precautions and statewide bans on gatherings have precluded that type of celebration, Schafer said.
Instead, the Chamber is offering, through its website, alternative suggestions for a variety of safely distanced, at-home activities, and hosting an online costume and pumpkin carving that will be judged by a panel of judges including Vashon’s unofficial teenaged mayors. Contest winners will receive autumnal inspired local drinks, snacks, goodies and treats in gift boxes individually valued at more than $100. Find out more about the contest at facebook.com/VashonIslandChamber.
The Chamber’s website — vashonchamber.com/halloween — also contains information about other Halloween activities being offered on Vashon, including a haunted drive-through at Camp Burton and photography portrait sessions with local photographer Marla Smith.
Smith — known for her photographs of costumed kids on Halloween — will be available this year for outdoor pumpkin patch photos at Langley Fine Gardens as well as outdoor costume portraits at Mukai Farm and Gardens. Both photography sessions require reservations in advance. Find out more at marlasmithphotography.com.
The Chamber’s site includes a warning that the King County Department of Health and the CDC considers trick-or-treating to be a high-risk activity. But there is also a list of safety recommendations for those who do choose to give out to or accept treats from someone who is not a part of their household.
In an interview, Schafer said that the Chamber had surveyed its members as to their plans for Halloween, and received a wide variety of responses. Some businesses, she said, still plan to pass out individually packaged Halloween treats on Oct. 31, which this year falls on a Saturday.
Schafer called the weekend positioning of the holiday a “bonus,” and suggested that those who still want to wear their costumes to town could still do so during the regular course of their shopping errands that day. Spreading out the festivities through the course of a day, she said, would hopefully make physical distancing possible.
“There are going to be people who still come to town,” she said — but added that the Chamber could not officially sponsor or police the safety of trick-or-treaters.
For those who are planning Halloween activities, the Chamber encourages social distancing and recommends reduced exposure time, and limiting sizes of groups to five people or fewer. Additional safety tips include a reminder that that wearing COVID-19 masks is critical to a safe Halloween, and that Halloween masks, by themselves, are not effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
For more information on having a safe Halloween, and to find out more about events being offered around town, visit vashonchamber.com/halloween. Full public safety recommendations for Halloween from the Washington Department of Health can be found at tinyurl.com/y4m6tc6p.