After living the better half of a year under a global pandemic, the common Halloween themes of fear, frights and death are no longer the novelty they were in years past.
On the other hand, the thought of enjoying the crisp fall air in the company of others is something many Minnesota residents are looking forward to this October after being cooped up for months.
Keeping both these viewpoints in mind, cities, organizations and businesses across the southwest metro are tasked with organizing annual trick-or-treat events and Halloween carnivals with more care and attention than ever before. Some cities chose to cancel events altogether, like Prior Lake’s annual Candy Crawl.
“It is something we’re not in the position to be able to do,” Prior Lake City Manager Jason Wedel said. “It involves a lot of people and kids coming through city hall.”
Wedel said the city came to the decision after businesses that support the Candy Crawl voiced concerns about the event.
“We all agreed it would make sense to not hold it and have a bigger and better event next year,” he said.
But other cities are tasked with figuring out different approaches this year.
In Chanhassen, the 36th annual Halloween Party will take the form of a “Trick-or-Trail” event this year. On Oct. 24, costumed guests are invited to the Chanhassen Recreation Center to travel through a socially-distanced, one-way trick-or-treat trail.
Along the way, local businesses will hand out candy and trinkets to guests. In addition to the trail, there will be a variety of socially-distanced activities and fresh mini donuts available for purchase from the Gray Duck Concessions food truck.
“We know that kids are going to be so excited for Halloween and trick-or-treating and that may not be possible in the neighborhoods,” City Recreation Supervisor Priya Tandon said. “We thought if we could present trick-or-treating with clear guidelines and clear expectations for parents to look at ... then maybe they will feel a little more comfortable with it and kids will be able to go out and trick-or-treat and bring a bit of normalcy back.”
Chaska will take a structured approach with the city’s Trail of Fun event Oct. 23, which requires guests to register for a time-slot in advance.
The outdoor trail walk takes visitors through Chaska Community Park for trick-or-treating, games and a jack-o-lantern display. The event costs $5 and registration can be completed at www.chaskacommunitycenter.com.
Downtown Shakopee businesses will host its usual Trick-or-Treat on Main Street event — but with similar modifications. Ashley Grotewold, Main Street Director at the Shakopee Chamber, is helping coordinate the event this year. She said trick-or-treating will be more structured and less of a “free-for-all.”
“We’re going to create maps with a steady flow of traffic,” Grotewold said. “There’s going to be a clear path of which way you should be going to follow a set route to the (downtown businesses) and each business will have an employee stationed outside the store instead of kids coming inside and reaching into a communal candy basket.”
Downtown businesses usually see an uptick in sales during Halloween, Grotewold said, due to the increase in parental foot traffic during trick-or-treating. Since the shops will see less costumers inside this year, the trick-or-treat maps will be accompanied by a promotional packet detailing local Halloween sales that will carry over to the following week.
Grotewold said Trick-or-Treat on Main will be the first downtown Shakopee event since the pandemic started.
“All of downtown wants to hold the event, they think it can be done safely and socially distanced,” Grotewold said. “They really miss seeing people downtown.”
Savage’s Halloween Bash has been cancelled, but city hall is working with the Savage Chamber of Commerce to create an alternative program called “Trunk-or-Treating,” a socially-distanced celebration. The details are still being hammered out, but Public Works Director Greg Boatman said the event will focus on meeting COVID-19 precautions while still providing a fun Halloween event for kids.
For some people, Halloween isn’t just a fun night — it’s a living. Entertainment businesses like Scream Town, west of Chaska and ValleyScare and Trail of Terror in Shakopee have all had to change plans due to COVID-19.
Matt Dunn, owner of Scream Town, said proper safety precautions have been put in place at the popular haunted attraction.
Scream Town will be much more structured this year — guests will purchase tickets for a specific time, and instead of a common courtyard where guests can hang out in between visiting different attractions, they will be grouped together and guided through Scream Town so as to not interact with other guests. Guests and staff will be required to wear masks at all times.
“We’re really luck that we’re already in the business of putting people in small groups and spacing them out,” Dunn said. “We’ve been social distancing people for a long time.”
In August, Valleyfair Amusement Park announced it would remain closed for the rest of 2021, shutting down the prospects of ValleyScare this fall.
“We are disappointed that we are unable to welcome our guests back to the park this season,” General Manager and Vice President said Raul Rehnborg in August. “The safety of our guests and associates is always our top priority.”
Just outside Shakopee, Mid-America Festivals is in the process of finalizing details on a modified version of the annual Trail of Terror event. Mid-America Marketing and Events Director Stephanie Whipps said the alternative will probably look similar to the company’s Festival on Parade, which replaced the Minnesota Renaissance Festival this fall.
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Eastern Carver County Schools announced high schools students will transition from distance learning to the hybrid model beginning on Monday, Sept. 28.
"We are so excited to have our high schoolers back in buildings, and even more excited that we were able to get to this point earlier than the Oct. 8 date we’d previously communicated to our high school families," District 112 communications director Celi Haga said. "That’s a testament to the amazing work done by our Chanhassen, Chaska, and Integrated Arts Academy staff over the past few weeks to be ready"
Elementary students in District 112 have been going four days a week in-person with middle school students in a hybrid two-day model since the first day of school on Sept. 8.
ECCS voluntarily went into a distance learning model for grades nine through 12, citing needing more time to prepare for in-person learning.
"Staff have been working hard to make sure we have everything in place to bring students back into the buildings safely," a District release said.
Erin Rathke, assistant superintendent for Eastern Carver County Schools, said the extra time allowed for the District to work on checking spaces and classes to accommodate the 50 percent capacity rule. Sometimes that meant administration and teachers had to rearrange rooms and walk around with tape measures.
Rathke also pointed out other notable changes:
High school students will return to school buildings two days per week with enhanced health, cleaning, and distancing protocols. Students will learn remotely on the other days.
Limited capacity in the schools will allow for maximum physical distancing. Students can find their "Hybrid A" or "Hybrid B" group assignments in Campus Portal.
"I have been so impressed with how hybrid is working at our middle schools and how seriously our students and staff are taking wearing their masks, distancing, and taking care of themselves and each other," Haga said. "I know we can expect the same from our high school students. As we’ve said before, there’s no playbook for this and we’re grateful for the grace, patience, and support of our community as we work through it together."
At this time, no changes will be made in the elementary and middle school learning models, or to the Online Learning Academy. The District vowed to evaluate learning models each month on the 8th.
"We appreciate your patience and your partnership as we navigate this year together. We can’t wait to see our high school students back in our buildings. Until then, stay safe, keep wearing masks, practice social distancing, and do what you can to minimize your exposure," the District release said.