South Orange & Maplewood Give Go Ahead for Halloween Trick-or-Treating – With Major Caveats

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Halloween is going to look a little different in Maplewood and South Orange this year, but just how different is still subject to change.

Maplewood’s parade (the annual costume contest in Maplewood Village sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce) will be virtual, but trick-or-treating will be allowed this Halloween. South Orange will also hold a virtual costume photo contest as well as a socially distanced screening of the film Hocus Pocus on Floods Hill.

Both towns are allowing for trick or treating but are providing guidance on how to do so with the maximum social distancing. And South Orange officials warned that the trick-or-treating could be canceled at any time should the town see a continued spike in COVID-19 cases.

“We’re not banning trick or treating, we’re gonna be very thoughtful and mindful about it,” said Maplewood Mayor Frank McGehee on Tuesday, October 6. The Township Committee decided to not ban the activity, but provide more guidance on how to do it safely. “It’s really important that everyone who is providing candy…to trick-or-treaters, that they really practice caution,” said McGehee.

McGehee also referenced Governor Murphy’s order, which allows towns to decide whether to ban trick-or-treating. “You’re really wearing two masks this year – your Halloween mask and your COVID mask.” McGehee did note that “maybe this year, we’ll see less lights on,” and mentioned the possibilities for a safe Halloween. “If you could take a year off [from going out]…and do some pumpkin carving at home with family, that would be great,” he stated, adding that he would not be in favor of indoor activities like parties and haunted houses.

All of the Maplewood Township Committee members agreed not to ban trick-or-treating, but discussed additional guidance to be put out for families. “It almost seems to me that those opening their doors and giving out candy should be sure to be wearing masks,” said Nancy Adams. McGehee and Greg Lembrich promoted an idea of “porch lights on” or a similar signal for houses that are participating. Dean Dafis suggested putting guidance out through the health officer. Lembrich thought that “this year, you’re going to have people – particularly older people or folks who are immunocompromised – who probably…aren’t gonna be comfortable opening the door for people.”

The TC passed a motion that the township is not going to ban trick-or-treating this year, though it is subject to public health guidelines.

Scroll down for the Maplewood trick-or-treating guidelines.

South Orange Promotes Remote Contest, Socially Distanced Hocus Pocus Screening

South Orange will not ban trick-or-treating either, but unlike Maplewood, is strongly discouraging it — and may cancel Halloween altogether if the town sees a spike in COVID-19 cases.

The South Orange Board of Trustees held the discussion on Monday, October 12. Village President Sheena Collum cited conflicting direction from the CDC, which has said traditional trick or treating is high risk, and Gov. Murphy, who has said Halloween is on. Either way, the holiday won’t be traditional in South Orange: Following the Governor’s recommendations, Collum cautioned those who did choose to trick or treat to lay out candy rather than put it in a bin, stay socially distant, wear a mask, and go with your household instead of large groups. She encouraged people to stay in their own neighborhoods or come up with alternatives.

Trustees Karen Hilton and Bob Zuckerman thought that South Orange should be consistent with Maplewood, and tell people to turn off their lights if they are not participating. “If we ban Halloween, how enforceable is that?” asked Trustee Zuckerman.

“If you can, do something within your street or your small little neighborhood. It’s up to you,” added Trustee Summer Jones.

Trustee Walter Clarke felt that “we should, if at all possible, provide a safe alternative. I look forward to it, but I think the reality is the potential for problems is significant, and I think it would be inappropriate for the Village government to encourage something that is not a safe act.”

Collum advocated for discouraging trick-or-treating and said that the Township would encourage residents to participate in the Spooky Spiotta virtual costume contest (details to come), attend the socially distanced screening of Hocus Pocus in Floods Hill (6:30 p.m., October 31, bring your own chairs/blankets) and print signs to post in windows or doors to signify that they are not engaging in Halloween. Trick-or-treating hours will also be limited – although no specific hours were determined at the October 12 meeting.

Trustee Donna Coallier suggested that the Township remain fluid, especially due to recent reports of high school students partying indoors. She recommended watching the numbers to see if the five new positive tests in South Orange were an anomaly or not. Coallier also noted that Halloween would be impossible for contact tracing.

“If we see a spike, you better bet we’re cancelling Halloween,” remarked Collum. “We will remain fluid. Watch our numbers.”

Best Practices for a Safe and Fun 2020 Halloween in Maplewood

1. Avoid Trick or Treating if you or anyone in your household isn’t feeling well, has a fever, or is under quarantine
2. Trick or Treaters: Wear a cloth or surgical mask WITH your costume mask. Candy Givers: Wear a cloth or surgical mask (if you are not in costume)
3. Porch/Outdoor Lights:
  • Light On = Trick or Treat here!
  • Light Off = Maybe next year!
***Do not enter someone else’s home***
4. Candy distribution:
  • Only use/accept candy that is in factory-sealed packaging
  • Consider spreading out treats on a table or prepare individually sealed bags ahead of time – AVOID (hands in) BOWLS
  • Limit treat choices
  • Maintain social distancing (wave to the kids from a distance or from behind a door)
  • Provide hand sanitizer for trick or treaters
5. Practice social distancing (keep at least 6 feet apart from other groups)
6. Stay in your immediate neighborhood
7. Use hand sanitizer and wash your hands when you get home!
Alternatives to Trick or Treating
• Costume parade on your block/neighborhood
• Celebrate/have a theme dinner with your family/pod at home – wear your costumes!
For more information, ideas and additional guidance visit the following links:

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