From virtual contests to drive thru trunk or treat, communities push for ‘normal’ Halloween

By Cherise Madigan
©2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Countless holidays and traditions are being re-configured in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, and Halloween has not been spared. While traditional trick-or-treating practices have come into question due to social distancing requirements, many community groups have modified their annual events so that the holiday can still be safely celebrated. According to organizers, their goal is to provide a much-needed sense of normalcy for children throughout the region this Halloween.

Chucking treats in Cavendish!

While the Cavendish Baptist Church typically organizes a trunk-or-treat event at Cavendish Town Elementary School, Pastor Abraham Gross says that the pandemic has presented too many concerns for the event to move forward as usual. Instead, the church will be encouraging a “traditional Vermont Halloween” in which families drive from house to house and remain socially distanced.

While organizers are helping residents brainstorm ways to hand out candy without getting close to one another — candy chutes, made of PVC pipe or even paper-towel tubes, are a popular option this year — the church has some ideas of its own.

“We’ll have little bags of goodies to chuck at kids, at relatively low velocities of course,” Gross laughed, saying that a catapult or some similar device is in the works. The church’s handicap accessible bathroom will also be open to the public, he says, so that trick-or-treaters won’t have to enter private homes to use the restroom.

“It’s Halloween in Vermont. You have to design your costumes to fit over a snowsuit anyway,” Gross added. “Hopefully we’ll be able to go back to having big events next year but, for now, I think we should be able to make this work pretty well.”

Drive-thru trunk-or-treat for Chester, Andover kids

The trunk-or-treat event hosted at Chester-Andover Elementary School each year will take place at 6 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 24, with a new drive-thru format that will help keep participants distanced.

The school’s Parent Teacher Group, which organizes the festivities each year, has also decided to move the event, usually held at Cobleigh Field, to the Green Mountain Union High School parking lot, affording it a lot more space.

Masks are required, says CAES PTG President Erica Smith, and cars will be spaced 6 feet apart. Families will still drive through the display of decorated trunks but, rather than stopping at each car, they will pick up individual bags of candy as they are leaving.

Later that evening, the annual community bonfire will take place at Cobleigh Field with the addition of individual “circles” set up by Chester Recreation Director Matt McCarthy and Andover resident Chris Meyer to encourage social distancing. Participants will need to claim their “circle” on a sign-up sheet, and will also be able to enjoy a family-friendly movie from the field.

While it took some brainstorming to find a configuration that could be agreed upon by both the organizers and the town’s Select Board, Smith said she believes that the effort will be worthwhile.

“We just want the kids to have a good Halloween this year,” she said. “We want to keep things as normal as possible for them, especially during such stressful times.”

Derry goes virtual; in-person event organized in Weston

Earlier this month, the South Londonderry Fire Department and the First Baptist Church made the “hard choice” to call off their annual Trunk-or-Treat and Haunted Firehouse event, said Pastor Chris Blackey. While the organizers don’t believe they can provide a safe environment for the event, they are planning to host a virtual Pumpkin Carving Contest for the community instead. That will take place from Sunday, Oct. 25 through Friday, Oct. 30.

At the same time, the Collaborative will be holding a virtual Costume Contest, and more information about both events should be available through the Collaborative’s Facebook page soon.

Additionally, the Collaborative will be holding a Harvest Festival Food Pickup on Thursday, Oct. 22 for the first 120 families who sign up. With dinner from the New American Grill and dessert from Grandma Millers, the Collaborative sees the initiative as a way to give back to the community. More information will be available about that soon through the organization’s Facebook page, according to AmeriCorps volunteer Devon Collins.

“We obviously feel sad about having to cancel,” Blackey concluded. “This is one of the more fun community events in South Londonderry and we tried to find a way to do it in person but, with the amount of people that come, it didn’t really seem feasible in any safe way.”

Some residents expressed disappointment with the cancellation on Facebook, and Weston resident Shelby Gordon has since taken it upon her shoulders to coordinate a community event to replace Londonderry’s yearly festivities, open to children in both towns and beyond.

Gordon says she is a regular organizer for the annual Easter event held on Weston’s Town Green, and has now used her experience to plan a Halloween celebration at the Weston Recreation Center from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 31.

The event will include a haunted walk, a firepit and individual goodie bags with s’mores kits, Gordon says. Several Halloween-themed games also will be set up. Masks will be encouraged, and hand sanitizer will be available. In addition to coordinating the event, Gordon is also putting together a Google map of residences in Londonderry and surrounding towns that will welcome trick-or-treaters.

As a mother of two young boys, Gordon says that she has been motivated to take the lead by changes to Halloween celebrations in the region over the past few years on top of further disruptions caused by Covid-19.

“I love doing this stuff,” Gordon said. “So does the community, and so many people have donated money, drinks, candy and time to make this happen.”

Are you organizing a virtual or in-person Halloween event? Send it to us at and we will add it to our roundup!

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Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeCovid 19 CoverageFeaturedIn the CommunityLocal announcements

About the Author: Journalist and photographer Cherise Madigan specializes in writing about outdoor recreation, the environment and travel. She has roots in Manchester and a history of reporting throughout Southern Vermont. Madigan is a graduate of Nazareth College of Rochester, earning her degree in Political Science summa cum laude in 2015.

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