To probably no one’s surprise, the annual Monster March in Parsons was canceled this year, but other events, including trick-or-treating, are still on despite the pandemic.

Commercial Bank announced last month the cancellation of its Monster March, the largest Halloween event each year in the Parsons area, because it’s just not wise to encourage hundreds of kids and their parents to gather in a small downtown area during a pandemic.

COVID-19, however, won’t stop other festivities, such as a Halloween drive-thru planned by the Parsons Public Library and a similar event at Labette Community College.

The Parsons City Commission recently addressed the most obvious Halloween activity. The city staff had received several inquiries about whether or not trick-or-treating would be allowed.

Commissioners decided not to intervene on the issue, only discussing it briefly before agreeing to let families decide whether or not they want to take their children trick-or-treating and if they want to hand out candy.

Commissioner Leland Crooks, who lives on a section of Morgan Avenue that is popular with trick-or-treaters, said children usually walk in family groups and social distancing from other families isn’t a problem.

“I cannot see canceling Halloween trick-or-treating,” Commissioner Kevin Cruse said.

“Halloween can be Halloween,” Mayor Jeff Perez said. He added the public still has a responsibility to protect against the spread of the coronavirus by taking preventative measures such as social distancing.

“It can’t just be a free-for-all,” he said.

City Manager Debbie Lamb said the city could post information about staying safe while trick-or-treating during the pandemic on the Parsons, KS Public Information Office Facebook page.

While trick-or-treating isn’t discouraged by city officials, health officials recommend against it. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list traditional trick-or-treating as one of the high-risk Halloween activities, along with trunk-or-treats, crowded indoor costume parties, hayrides with people outside of a household, using alcohol and drugs that can lead to risky behavior and rural fall festivals outside of a person’s community.

Labette County Health Department Administrator Lisa Stivers recommends that people follow the guidelines that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment issued in September. Trick-or-treating is not recommended because, according to KDHE, it is difficult to maintain proper social distancing on porches and ensure everyone is wearing protective face coverings. Besides that, sharing food is risky.

KDHE, however, also gives guidelines for “safer” trick-or-treating. Those include correctly wearing a cloth face covering and incorporating the face coverings into costumes if possible. KDHE also suggests carrying hand sanitizer and using it at regular intervals as well as sanitizing wipes to disinfect candy wrappers. The agency also suggests accepting only commercially packaged items and practicing physical distancing by waiting until a porch is empty before approaching a home and moving aside on sidewalks and driveways.

KDHE also gives recommendations how people can safely pass out candy this year, including social distancing, washing hands at regular intervals, sanitizing frequently touched items and not using “grab bowls” for trick-or-treaters to reach into to get their candy. The KDHE also suggests practicing one-way trick-or-treating such as spacing candy 6 feet apart on a porch or table while watching from a safe distance and replenishing when needed.

All of KDHE’s guidance regarding Halloween activities during the pandemic can be found at coronavirus.kdheks.gov.

KDHE also recommends trunk-or-treats be suspended for the year, but gives guidance on how those can be done “safer.” The guidelines are basically the same as for trick-or-treating. 

In Parsons, Westside Christian Church and Wesley United Methodist Church usually have trunk-or-treats. The churches haven’t announced their plans publicly this year. No one answered phone calls at either church on Friday.

The Parsons Public Library will host a Halloween drive-thru from 4 to 6 p.m. Oct. 30 in the parking lot behind the library. A Halloween backdrop will be available for pictures. Labette Community College, LCC Trio Talent Search and the Parsons Recreation Commission will partner to hand out treat bags to the first 350 youths from 5:30 to 6:15 p.m. Oct. 27. Treats will be handed out at the former site of the college dorms on campus across from Forest Park. Traffic for the giveaway must come in on Main Street, turn onto Heacock, then west on Broadway to get the candy. To exit, traffic turns south on 13th Street.

Under the KDHE guidelines, gatherings, events or parties with non-household members are not recommended, nor are carnivals, festivals, live entertainment and haunted house attractions.

Despite the recommendation to not attend haunted houses, Project Fear opened last weekend at the old Katy Hospital, 400 Katy Ave. According to its Facebook page, Project Fear has modified its seating and lobby and how “spooks” interact with guests to allow for proper distancing. Masks are required, and organizers ask that anyone who is showing symptoms or has been in contact with someone who was sick not attend. Spooks and guests’ temperatures are checked before they enter the building. The haunted house is open from 7:30 p.m. to midnight every Friday and Saturday in October.

Parsons Recreation Commission has canceled its annual haunted house in the poolhouse of the public swimming pool because of COVID-19 precautions, Arianna Bennett, PRC administrator, said.

“It would be a little crowded,” she said.

So far, the recreation commission is only planning to partner with LCC for the treat bag handout, but some other event could be planned before Halloween, Bennett said.

The Altamont Boo Bash has been canceled as well, but a trunk-or-treat is still set for Halloween evening in downtown Oswego. In Chetopa, the annual Halloween party will be relocated from the school to Veterans Park. It will start at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 31.

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