Ronald Wouda is skipping Halloween this year, which is big news in his Redmond neighborhood because his annual ghoulish yard displays draw hundreds of people.
Because of the pandemic, he doesn’t want to be the reason people get sick when they show up on Halloween. On the night of Halloween he’s seen as many as 700 people come by to view his display and grab a candy.
“This is painful for me,” said the 64-year-old Wouda. “I have people who really depend on me to put up the display. Halloween is one of the few nights of pure joy for kids and adults.”
He’s not alone in skipping the normal Halloween high jinks.
With COVID-19 cases still rising, and a vaccine un-developed, the recommendation is to create events at home and not out in the community.
For the past nine years, Wouda put up 43 inflatables, thousands of lights, tombstones and skeletons in his front yard. He’d start weeks before Halloween.
“After a whole lot of soul searching and debating, we’re not putting anything up,” Wouda said. “Not with this whole COVID-19 thing going around. It’s not getting any better.”
Halloween is also a time when businesses often pass out candy and host costume contests. Even in the middle of a pandemic, consumers are expected to spend $8 billion this year, according to the National Retail Federation.
And an annual survey shows that more than 148 million adults plan on participating in Halloween events, according to the federation. More than half of those surveyed said they’d plan to decorate their homes, nearly half said they’ll carve a pumpkin and 18% will dress up their pet, according to the survey.
At the Old Mill District, the plan is to spread out events over six days, from Oct. 24 to 30 to promote social distancing and not draw huge crowds, said Carrie Ramoz, Old Mill District marketing director. She did not elaborate on those events, but said the center would announce them next week.
“We’re not giving candy out this year,” Ramoz said. “We don’t want to encourage a large group of people to come down on the same day. All of our events will be outdoors.”
Likewise, the Downtown Bend Business Association usually sponsors costume contests. Merchants pass out candy or pencils to costume-clad youngsters. In past years more than 3,000 people would come.
“With the state of Oregon limiting outdoor gatherings to 250 people and the CDC recommending no trick-or-treating, we’ve had to reimagine what Halloween will look like in downtown Bend,” said Mindy Aisling, association executive director. “Our first responsibility is to keep our community safe, so our events are more of a DIY and online participation style.”
Jacqueline Smith, owner of Found National Goods, said her store won’t miss much without Halloween trick-or-treating.
“It will give us time to be home with our families,” Smith said. “In the past it’s been a pretty big day for downtown Bend. It’s sad, but it’s part of the sacrifices we need to make because of the pandemic.”
Wouda had hoped that this year would be his last Halloween display because he and his wife, Pat, plan to sell their home by next summer and travel in an RV.
“It really bothers me a lot,” Wouda said. “I didn’t want to do it. I wanted to go out with a bang.”
But Wouda has a backup plan for fans of his displays.
“I will do Christmas,” he said. “I have a lot of lights and inflatables for that.”