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Halloween Festivities Stave Off Virus Cancellations By Adapting

SAD-O-WEEN NO MORE! Sleepy Hollow resident Cat Tallant’s last minute decision to bring her haunted path back to her front yard has been well received by her neighbors (especially the younger ones). (Photo: News-Press)

Ghouls and ghosts have seemed a bit too real as the world struggles with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but that hasn’t spooked Falls Church residents from pulling off their own modified ways of showing their Halloween spirit.

Government officials have spent the weeks leading up to one of the calendar’s more social holidays by urging against its traditions.

Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross wrote in her News-Press column last week that “Handing treats to children door-to-door is not recommended this year, nor are tailgate-type handouts in large parking lots, referred to as ‘trunk or treat.’” The City of Falls Church sang the same tune in its own notice Wednesday, saying people were safest at home and that a costume mask is a not a good substitute for a cloth face covering.

Residents, however, responded to the political encouragement to abort this year’s festivities by instead getting creative with how it’s celebrated.
Within the City was last weekend’s revival of the annual Halloween Window Painting event.

Normally organized by Falls Church Art’s Marty Behr, the arts group said at the start of the month that it would be forgoing its yearly event. Enter George Mason High School’s Parent-Teacher-Student Association, led by President Mary Asel, who said she took over the “well-oiled machine” that Behr had spent over a decade assembling. The community response was overwhelmingly positive.

“There are lots of groups and families that look forward to doing the painting every year,” Asel said, noting that everyone came prepared with their own masks and adhered to social distancing. “In the 2020 spirit, it is a smaller effort this year, but I think it’s still a really lovely effort.”

Asel rounded up some “volunteers” (i.e. her two teenage sons) to man the paint-mixing table at Mr. Brown’s park this past weekend. There, some groups who had arranged to take up painting some businesses were met by passersby who joined in on the spot to help out.

All in all, Asel estimated that at least a dozen businesses — who she said were also eager to participate — have offered up their windows. And while Asel could only get her sons to sacrifice their Saturday and Sunday mornings just once, she’s not stopping other groups who have reached out about painting. She also said that some who participated in years past had gone off on their own and started painting business windows.

One of the City-run efforts that serves as a good candy bonanza for younger children is the annual Halloween Carnival. That event taking place in the community center’s basketball court predictably forced it to be called off, but Scarlett Williams, the City’s special events program supervisor, has rolled out two events in its stead to give kids a reason to dress up.

First is the (free) Hallow-Scream Scavenger Hunt that takes place throughout six of the City’s parks. Starting on Friday and running until next Sunday, Nov. 1, costumed kiddos will have to find six Halloween-themed pictures hidden at Lincoln Park, Crossman Park, Cavalier Trail Park, West End Park, Cherry Hill Park and Howard E. Herman Park. Those who find all six pictures and decipher the code word they spell out by Nov. 1 will get a free t-shirt.

The community center is also holding Halloween Pop-Up events on the big day, with Pumpkin Painting in Cherry Hill Park; Birdhouse Painting in Berman Park and Scarecrow Making in Frady Park. This event requires registration to make sure social distancing is followed, so those interested should go to webtrac.fallschurchva.gov/wbwsc/webtrac.wsc/wbsplash.html?wbp=1.

THE HALLOWEEN WINDOW PAINTING normally run by Falls Church Art’s Marty Behr was picked up George Mason High School’s PTSA president Mary Asel to the great relief of the community.

Outside of City limits people are getting equally crafty about how they give kids their trick-or-treating thrills.

The Jefferson Village Civic Association, which is based out of the Jefferson Village neighborhood just south of Lee Highway along Graham Road, is hosting a Halloween Grab & Go next Saturday, Oct. 31 from 3 – 4 p.m.
The Fall Fest — complete with a bouncy house and kids gathering together in costumes — is usually the association’s biggest event.

Devin Pharr, the association’s chair, said they nearly didn’t even attempt to hold something tailored to Covid safety protocols this year, though in his words, “That’s not what we’re about. It’s not just about planning when things are good; it’s about planning when things are hard, too.”

For this year, the group is having families come out to the intersection of Marshall Street and Custis Parkway. That’s when a steady procession of children in their holiday garb will parade down the street and pick up individual gift bags of candy at separate stations.

The hope of the association is that it will replace that night’s usual rounds of trick-or-treating for antsy parents. But he’s not expecting kids to make it the smoothest production.

“It will be like when you see people in a marathon — how they set up stations of water on the route, but don’t do a very neat job of picking up a cup,” Pharr said. “It’s going to be similar, though not quite as fast, but possibly just as messy considering it’s kids.”

And a final staple of the Halloween season locally is Cat Tallant’s Haunted Path at Sleepy Hollow, in the Sleepy Hollow neighborhood.

The nurse who works around Covid-19 patients was having anxiety over even putting together her often-extensive haunted house display around the front and back of her house.

After waffling on the decision, she finally committed to setting up what she called a “Spider Walk” in the front of her house that’s less congested and easier to progress through for interested families. Kids will still be able to pick up candy at the end of their trip through the haunted path and will witness her new blow-spider (hence the name). She hasn’t spent too much time getting the word out since it’s been such a late decision, but she is happy about putting it out for the neighborhood’s children.

“We’re just happy to be able to do something that the community and the kids can look forward to during this time, that’s really why we did it,” Tallant said. “These little kids don’t even have their friends to play with. It’s really, really sad.”

The path goes live on Oct. 30 & 31, and runs from 6 – 9 p.m. both days.