Halloween will be toned-down in Ridgefield this year
Doors may not be opening for trick-or-treaters on Main Street this year. New Street won’t have its usual over-the-top assemblage of gruesome decorations.
And the downtown Halloween Walk is called off.
But Halloween hasn’t quite been outlawed in Ridgefield this year, despite the lurking presence of not just ghosts and schools but the COVID-19 virus.
“The Police Department will not be doing anything to discourage trick-or-treating this year,” said Capt. Shawn Platt, the department’s public information officer.
“...The Ridgefield Police Department will be partnering with the Lounsbury House for a daytime Drive-thru Halloween event.”
The Police Department’s plans weren’t finalized, but First Selectman Rudy Marconi said he expects it to be a COVID-safe variation on the tradition of the haunted house events the police and the students from the alternative high school have put together at the Lounsbury House in past years.
Marconi told the Oct. 7 Board of Selectmen’s meeting he’d heard from people who lived on Main Street where the safe sidewalks and decorated homes draw trick-or-treaters form near and far.
“Most of those restients will not be opening their doors this year due to COVID-19,” Marconi said. “For the most part, it’s not going to happen.”
Marconi and his wife Peggy live on Main Street, a little south of the fountain, in the area known for high Halloween foot traffic. Like their neighbors, every year they give out a lot of treats.
“Last year we gave out 1,700 pieces of candy. The high was 2,300,” Marconi said. “If the weather’s warm, it’s going to be packed.
“I love the event,” he said. “...But it just can’t happen.”
One Main Street family outlined their misgivings in a letter to the editor this week.
“As a family we embrace Halloween. We decorate, dress in family-themed costumes, and we hand out loads of candy,” wrote Meghan Keane. “We welcome thousands of trick-or-treaters to our door, admire their costumes and offer our porch for group photos.
“We feel it is necessary to inform the public that many of us do not feel comfortable handing out candy this year,” she added. “We do not advocate canceling Halloween for all, but feel it is irresponsible to encourage large crowds of people to gather on Main Street.
“We have spoken to at least five other Main Street neighbors, who all agree. Some will be posting yard signs, others will simply have their lights off.
“We understand that this is a disappointment — it is for us as well,” she wrote. “However, we plan to decorate and have our lights and decorations up and running through the end of the month. We encourage families who may want to get out and enjoy the decorations to walk Main Street in the next few weeks.”
The cancellation of the official “Halloween Walk” in the downtown commercial area was announced Sept. 29 by Selectwoman Barbara Manners, head of the Holiday Trust Fund which finances police coverage for the event.
Marconi noted the cancellation at the Oct. 7 selectmen’s meeting.
“As we all know the Halloween Walk that Barbara has been working on for some years, a decision was made to cancel it for this year due to COVID-19,” Marconi said. “So many people coming into town — almost impossible to maintain appropriate social distancing, masks.
“And the Health Department has advised against anything like that as well.”
“What about New Street?” Selectwoman Maureen Kozlark asked.
“That’s private,” Marconi said.
“In the past the police have closed the road,” Kozlark said.
“I don’t think, based on COVID, they’re going to close the road,” Marconi said.
Capt. Platt of the Ridgefield Police said last week that the department had not been presented with any plans or requests to provide any officers for New Street this Halloween.
William Franzen, the New Street homeowner who for years has made the neighborhood a Halloween destination by filling his entire yard with smoke machines and scenes of dressed-up dummies — pirates, clowns, monsters, a deranged “dolls tea party” — told The Press he’s not decorating this year because of COVID-19.
“I’m going to do a huge one next year,” Franzen said. “It’s so fraught with issues.”
Marconi told the seletmen that Police Chief Jeff Kreitz had said the department has plans to keep alive it’s haunted house tradition at the Community Center’s Lounsbury House property.
“I did speak to Chief Kreitz. He is planning to do an event. No one gets out of the car. They’d come in through the back of Veterans Park School, come up through Community Center,” Marconi said.
“...They’ll have people dressed up along the route in costumes,” he said.
“By the Teen Barn they’ll take the chains down to allow cars to go out through Veteran’s Park onto Governor Street.”
Various ideas are still being explored, Marconi told the selectmen, such as delivering candy from a safe distance by sending it down long plastic PCV pipes.
The first selectmen seemed glad that at least some aspect of Hallloween would be salvaged.
“That gives the kids something to look forward to,” he said.
“We’re not cancelling Halloween, if parents want to go out and drive their kids around.”
“We don’t want people getting sick,” Kozlark agreed. “Unfortunately we’re just going to have to live with what we have this year.”