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Long Island parents weigh trick or treating for Halloween in 2020

Elizabeth Cavanaugh, 39, of Rockville Centre, plans to

Elizabeth Cavanaugh, 39, of Rockville Centre, plans to keep her sons, Rory, 6, and Patrick, 4, masked and socially distanced as they trick or treat this year. Credit: Cavanaugh family / Sara Flynn Schaefer

It’s been the talk of the town for weeks. On Facebook parenting groups. At every socially distanced play date. On mom-to-mom phone calls. What is everyone doing about trick-or-treating?

"Is Halloween canceled?" begins one such post on the East Northport Moms Facebook page, after which there are more than 130 comments. Many families promise to be out and about, others say they won’t be going door to door and still others are sharing hybrid ideas such as stringing candy on a clothesline for trick or treaters to pick off or using a PVC pipe to slide candy — social distancing style — over to costumed children.

While the CDC has recommended that families consider nixing the door-knocking due to COVID-19, pegging it as a high-risk way to celebrate the holiday, some determined Long Island parents aren’t quite ready to relinquish yet another annual tradition in 2020. "I don’t want everything to be taken away from them this year," says Elizabeth Cavanaugh, 39, a social worker from Rockville Centre. Her sons, Rory, 6, and Patrick, 4, will dress as the horror movie villain Jason and a dragon to mark the holiday. "I think it’s going to take some creativity. I think if we think on our feet like a lot of people have had to do since March, we can make it work."


Cavanaugh plans to keep her sons masked and socially distanced as they visit houses close to their own, and she hopes that enough people are going to open their doors that the kids won’t be disappointed. "We’ve made so much progress getting the numbers down, I want to participate in a way that keeps it safe," she says. As for giving out candy at her house, she plans to use the clothesline technique, she says.

Some parents say they wish signage could indicate which houses would be participating in trick or treating. "I love that idea," says Jennifer Galvin, 45, a health care worker from Rockville Centre with three children, Liam, 17, Quinn, 11 and Avarose, 8. She plans to take the younger ones out. "I’m excited, and I want to go because I love Halloween," says Avarose, who will be dressing as the La Muerte character from the animated movie "The Book of Life."

Marissa Heuser will be welcoming trick or treaters with a twist. Heuser, 24, a Hunter College graduate student, lives with her parents in Commack. Her mom is immunocompromised, so the family needs to avoid close contact and didn’t want to just leave candy in a bowl. "Much as I love children, they have a tendency to touch every piece of candy in the basket before they choose the one they want," Heuser says. So Heuser and her dad are constructing a PVC pipe chute to run along their porch banister that will slide candy down to trick or treaters. They’ll paint it with Halloween scenes. "We want it to be fun and kid of kooky, but safe," she says.

Others have taken creativity even further. Aaron Foss, 42, of Port Jefferson, created a Candy Cannon with PVC pipe and an air compressor with two friends in the LI Maker Space club. They’ll shoot candy to kids. "The plan is to hang out in the driveway and rain candy upon them. We were just trying to find a way to have some fun on this socially distanced Halloween," Foss says.

Some municipalities have pivoted their Halloween events; Rockville Centre, for instance, is offering what they are calling a "Drive-through Trunk or Treat" from 4 to 6 p.m. at the village recreation center parking lot instead of the annual Ragamuffin Parade through town. Participants will stay in their cars as they drive through the decorated lot and will receive candy treats at the end. It’s $10 per car and advance registration is required. Some public family venues are offering smaller events and some private families are having backyard or indoor parties with limited guests.


Other parents plan to avoid the local Halloween scene altogether. Kimberly Gordon, 40, a health care worker from Shirley who’s seen what the coronavirus can do, isn’t letting her children, Elgen, 15, Gabriella, 12 and Madilyn, 10, trick-or-treat this year. "Instead … I bought them all trick or treat bags and filled them with crafts and candy that they like. We’re just going to celebrate at home," Gordon says. "I’m worried about the virus with the kids going door-to-door and maybe not being able to social distance from other children."

Krystina Kacharaba, 28, a health care administrator from Lynbrook, is escaping in a different way — she’s heading to Sesame Place in Pennsylvania for the day with her husband, Erick, 40, who works for Slomin’s, and their son, Kyle, 2. "I keep seeing mixed reviews of whether parents will be trick or treating or not. Even last year, there was hardly anyone home. It’s probably going to be worse," Kacharaba says. It’s boring to go to houses where nobody answers the door, and she doesn’t want to be bothered wiping down whatever candy Kyle does collect, she says. She’d prefer to pass the day with Kyle dressed as Woody from "Toy Story," collecting goody bags offered at the amusement park. That’s an attractive option because Halloween falls on a Saturday this year, so she and her husband are both off from work and have the entire day to enjoy festivities. "He’ll have a great time," Kacharaba says. "It’ll be a lot of fun."

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