The COVID-19 pandemic continues to play havoc with holidays, social activities, and “normal” events – and Halloween 2020 was no different.
In North Haven, the recreation department was forced to cancel its usual Halloween events – a trunk-or-treat night at the high school and a party at the Mildred A. Wakeley Recreation Center. Both have become Halloween traditions.
“It was probably late August or early September when we realized we couldn’t pull them off,” said Andy DelVecchio, the town’s assistant recreation director. “We put our heads together ... my boss, Mike Freda the first selectman, the police and fire chiefs, and came up with a response.”
It was decided to hold a Halloween drive thru and goody bag giveaway in place of North Haven’s usual offerings. The event was held last Saturday – Halloween morning and afternoon – and it drew a crowd. One-hundred-fifty cars cruised through the Wakeley Center’s driveway, picking up a goody bag for every costumed child riding along.
“It’s a fabulous idea, especially since the kids can’t really go out this year,” said Nicole Riordan, whose daughter Khalina took home one of the 325 goody bags that were handed out. Riordan said she and Khalina usually go to trunk-or-treat at the high school.
“This was the safest thing we could do,” DelVecchio said. “The cars come through and we hand out a bag of candy to each child in the car. Based on CDC and state guidelines this was probably the safest way to go and the least amount of contact.”
DelVecchio credits his five full-time staff members and countless volunteers for making the drive-thru a success.
“The thing about this town is that everyone comes together,” he said. “Everyone chips in. We have great support from CERT (Community Emergency Response Team), fire, police, and the Lions and Rotary clubs. Our first selectman, Mike Freda, is here. He comes to the Halloween events every year as Spider-Man.”
DelVecchio also gave credit to Scott Morrow, senior pastor at North Haven Congregational Church, who volunteered use of the church parking lot so traffic for the drive-thru would not clog Washington and Church streets.
“That was one of our and the police chief’s biggest concerns,” DelVecchio said.
In an odd coincidence, the annual trunk-or-treat event at North Haven High School was also born out of necessity. It was a response to the cancellation of Halloween in 2011 due to widespread power outages caused by a freak early-season snow storm.
"It's a nice event if you are from a neighborhood where you can't trick or treat," DelVecchio said. "People decorate their trunk and see their friends and kids come to a safe, well-lit area.
"We started doing it earlier so darkness wasn't an issue. Last year we had a couple hundred cars. You come in and do it and nobody leaves until it's over, so there's no cross-traffic. The Knights of Columbus help us out ... a lot of community people get involved."
And while the drive-thru was a great success, there's hope for a return to trunk-or-treat – and some normalcy –in 2021.