The stage was set for a perfect Halloween this year, with Oct. 31, falling on both a full moon and a Saturday.

Much like…everything else… COVID-19 went ahead and messed up plans. That is, until Vermonters put their heads together — from apart — to scheme up new, pandemic-friendly ways to celebrate.

Shelburne switches up costume contest

For more than 45 years, Halloween in Shelburne has included a big parade followed by free food at the firehouse and games in the town gym.

This year, for obvious reasons, the town has had to switch gears. While Shelburne is still hosting a parade, things will look a little different. Attendees will be asked to spread out along the route and mask up.

The town’s recreation committee couldn’t let COVID-19 ruin all the fun. That’s why this year it will host an outdoor costume contest on the baseball field behind the town offices before the parade.

Well-dressed folks will be judged in five different categories including most original, cutest and scariest costumes. Categories are divided by age groups, and all winners will receive a prize.

“We kind of hopefully have a plan in place to keep people distanced, but still able to come through and show off their stuff,” said Betsy Cieplicki, director of parks and recreation.

The costume contest will be the department’s first community event since February, she said.

“One of the favorite parts of the job for myself, as well as the recreation committee, are the community events in town,” Cieplicki said. “We’ve lost a lot of community events this year due to COVID. So, it was important to us to provide something.”

“Hopefully people can enjoy the parade or come enjoy the costume contest,” Cieplicki said.

South Burlington gets its spooky on

At 79 years old, Linda DeLaricheliere’s kids are grown, and her grandchildren are young adults. But she’s always enjoyed Halloween and she was not willing to let the pandemic rain on her parade.

“To tell you the truth I don’t think the kids should be deprived of some things,” she said.

If it’s a nice day, instead of having kids come to her door, DeLaricheliere will sit outside her home and give masked trick or treaters their Halloween fix. She plans on doling out her signature Halloween treat: potato chips.

“I figure they get enough candy,” she said.

The city’s Recreation and Parks Department has planned a slew of outdoor activities inspired by its usual “Spooktacular” events, too.

Activities include: a night hike at the Wheeler Nature Trail from 6:30-7:30 p.m. on Oct. 23; a bring your own pumpkin, pumpkin carving station outside City Hall on Oct. 24, from noon-2 p.m.; Halloween Bingo at Veterans Memorial Park on Oct. 24 from 2:30-4:30 p.m.; and a Community Glow Walk by the stormwater pond on Market Street from on Oct. 30 from 6-8 p.m.

“We’re looking for every opportunity to have inclusive community events that are free and accessible and safe,” said recreation director Holly Rees.

After running a 250-person youth soccer season this fall, the department felt prepared to host community Halloween events with safety measures like social distancing, hand sanitation areas and staggered entry, Rees said.

It is even running a new Halloween decorating contest which challenges businesses and community members to decorate their offices and homes to be judged by recreation and parks staff —a take on the city’s annual winter holiday decorating contest and one Rees thinks might inspire a new tradition of driving around to look at Halloween lights and displays.

“I’m excited to see how creative people come up with that,” she said.

Haunted Woods Trail

Halloween has always been special for Tiffany Hutchins and her family. So, with the fate of trick or treating up in the air this year they decided to host a haunted woods trail walk on their Carpenter Road property in Charlotte.

For the past three years the Hutchins have built a spooky trail and invited friends to take a stroll, facing scares along the way.

This year, they’ve added to the trail and decided to open it up to the public — by appointment — on Oct. 24 between 5:30-8 p.m.

“We just really blew it up so it’s a lot longer, it’s a lot bigger,” Hutchins said. “We just turned the dial up and decided to throw it out there.”

The trail stretches for about a mile, with an optional gory loop that Hutchins called a “chainsaw massacre.”

That chainsaw loop is a bit scary, she said, but she thinks brave teenagers might enjoy it.

Neighbors have asked just how frightening the trail is, and Hutchins has been hard pressed to come up with an answer. Parents with young children are warned they would probably fare better walking the trail while the sun is still up.

“It’s really different at night,” Hutchins said.

Visitors can walk the trail with their party, with time between groups for social distancing. They’ll see plenty of Halloween decorations, lighting effects, animatronic jump scares and a few socially distanced scares with actors too, Hutchins said.

The family isn’t charging for the experience, they’re just hoping to create holiday cheer during the pandemic.

“We thought it was something that we could do for our community,” Hutchins said. “That’s really the big idea.”

Those interested in taking the spooky walk can contact Hutchins at thutchin@uvm.edu to inquire about open walking times. Spots have been filling quickly.

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