News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Halloween activities scaled back

When it comes to Halloween, Sisters Country doesn’t mess around. In addition to nighttime trick-or-treating, there are usually parades, parties, and the annual firehouse carnival. This year, many activities will be canceled or scaled back due to COVID safety concerns.

At the town parade on Halloween, kids usually dress up in costumes and walk along Main and Hood avenues, hitting Cascade Avenue and side streets too. Local businesses admire costumes and hand out candy to the kids.

“We regret that the parade is canceled this year due to COVID,” said Steve Auerbach, past president of Sisters Rotary, which typically co-sponsors the parade, along with the Sisters branch of Deschutes Public Library.

“It’s difficult to monitor six-foot social distancing,” said library supervisor Zoe Schumacher, who also serves as Secretary on the Board of Rotary. “It wouldn’t be in everybody’s best interest.”

The carnival at Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire District also fell victim to the scythe of COVID this year. Instead of offering spooky games and a haunted house, the Fire District plans to deliver Halloween bags with treats and fire prevention materials to Sisters Elementary and Black Butte schools.

Bringing sugary seasonal joy to local kids, the bags will be distributed to K-4 students, including those enrolled in home-based learning programs through Sisters School District (SEO and CDL). Bags will be prepared with COVID safety in mind.

Fire Chief Roger Johnson said, “While we realize this isn’t the typical Halloween experience that local families have come to love, we still want to be able to provide a way for kids to enjoy the holiday in a safe manner.”

The Sisters Elementary School (SES) Halloween parade normally finds hundreds of costumed kids winding their way throughout all classrooms, with music blasting over the intercom. Then each classroom explodes into a flurry of Halloween fun.

Some students at SES have been able to attend school in-person this fall, dependent on COVID guidelines issued at the State level. These kindergarten through third-grade (K-3) students will experience a COVID-conscious version of the school’s annual festivities.

The parade will be held outside, only for in-person students. “We will maintain our six feet of separation and still enjoy seeing one another’s costumes,” an announcement read. Classroom parties will follow.

“With the cohort concerns, we can’t bring the distance-learning students in for something that is not academic in nature,” said SES principal Joan Warburg of other students. “We may be able to look at something virtual that encompasses all of our fourth-graders.”

Delaney Sharp, head teacher at Black Butte School in Camp Sherman, said the tiny district was trying to figure out Halloween plans. The school’s parent-teacher organization discussed “organizing some outdoor games that could be safe for that Saturday afternoon,” Sharp said. “They are also trying to organize a simple trick-or-treat time” for local Camp Sherman kids only.

Sharp said that if the school’s families gather for Halloween, it will be voluntary, not an official BBS-sponsored activity. “Overall, I would just say everyone is working to find a way to celebrate the holiday out here,” he said, “while also being mindful of being safe and not contributing to any unnecessary spread of the virus.”

Meanwhile, back in Sisters, “the City never played much of a role in the past,” said City Manager Cory Misley of the town’s Halloween activities. “It was just sort of an organic thing.”

During this season, Misley asked citizens to “continue to do more of the same” — meaning, take the same precautions that have helped local businesses and residents during the pandemic. Those precautions include “wearing masks, social distancing, sanitizing, and avoiding groups and close contact.”

Because the City of Sisters doesn’t employ its own public health officials, “we’re going to amplify and reiterate the messages that are coming from Oregon Health Authority and Deschutes County Public Health.”

Misley noted that the City of Sisters “has not gone above and beyond either of them.” In other words, the City doesn’t intend to ban Halloween activities, and “we won’t be doing enforcement.”

Health authorities warn against high-risk activities. That means no traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children going door-to-door. Indoor parties, haunted houses, and trunk-or-treating from cars are all discouraged by health authorities.

Activities with lower risk include visiting a pumpkin patch, trying a modified version of trick-or-treating, and having socially distanced costume parties outdoors.

The library will offer spooky crafts, and The Lodge in Sisters will feature drive-through treats. For more ideas, see “Alternative Halloween Activities."


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