Ann Arborites get creative for Halloween festivities as officials encourage safe celebrating

Thursday, October 29, 2020 - 3:16pm

Ragstock puts up its Halloween display of costumes and decorations.

Ragstock puts up its Halloween display of costumes and decorations. Buy this photo
Tess Crowley/Daily

Like most things this year, celebrating Halloween will be unlike any other. As Ann Arbor locals approach this year’s spooky weekend, many are finding alternative ways to celebrate the community-centered holiday.

Ann Arbor resident Nicole Barragato, who has 3-year-old and 5-year-old daughters, said she has been trying to find a balance between having fun while staying safe and practicing social distancing. Barragato put together a map, pinning different houses with elaborate Halloween decorations for her family to drive around to see.

“I have a 3 and 5-year-old, so Halloween is very important to them,” Barragato said. “So we did a Halloween map. We drove around, and I had made a spooky playlist and we listened to that while we went and found spooky lights.”

Trick-or-treating is a hallmark tradition in celebrating Halloween. But as Washtenaw County continues to see an uptick in COVID-19 cases, many locals reconsider participating in normal festivities.

“I feel like everybody’s trying to be as cautious as they possibly can and be really creative in how they can keep everybody safe,” Barragato said. “So I’ve just been really encouraged by feeling like you're on the same team with everybody and everybody creatively finding ways to do it.”

Ann Arbor resident Nicole Barragato put together a map for a safe Halloween activity this year.

Ann Arbor resident Nicole Barragato put together a map for a safe Halloween activity this year. Buy this photo
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Ann Arbor prepares for unusual Halloween

Both the city and the University of Michigan are preparing for this weekend’s festivities. 

The city of Ann Arbor issued an Oct. 14 update encouraging residents to find alternative ways to celebrate Halloween based on levels of COVID-19 risks in different areas. For the most part, the city recommends locals celebrate Halloween safely at home or follow safety tips if families plan to celebrate outside of their homes. 

Tips include assuring children that this year’s celebrations will be different but can still be enjoyable, reminding small children to maintain a six-foot distance from others and trick-or-treat with people within a household, among other guidelines.

Other ways the city encourages residents to engage in festivities this year include setting up a neighborhood costume parade, a more streamlined way to keep safe distances between children. The city also warns residents that costume masks are not a substitute for a cloth mask and recommends using Halloween-themed cloth masks.

In an email sent to students Thursday afternoon, Martino Harmon, vice president for Student Life, said students will be subjected to possible suspensions for violating the stay-in-place order. Student groups found violating the order could risk losing their U-M affiliation, Harmon said.

Halloween is typically associated with large parties on campus, as is the Michigan-Michigan State University rivalry football game, which will also take place Saturday. Harmon encouraged students to think about how their actions impact the surrounding community when making decisions about how to celebrate this weekend.

“Most students have been living out the Culture of Care and making good decisions,” Harmon wrote. “We expect that from all U-M students. You, as students, impact our community with your choices. Please make wise decisions in the days and weeks ahead.”

In an open letter to the Washtenaw County community sent Thursday, officials including Rep. Debbie Dingell, Mayor Christopher Taylor and University President Mark Schlissel urged community members to work together to reduce the spread of COVID-19, while also finding ways to make community events happen in new and safer ways. 

Residents planning on celebrating outside of their homes should wear face coverings, practice social distancing and frequently wash their hands. When trick-or-treating, residents should stay outside, and households passing out candy should find alternative ways to hand out candy within six-foot distances.

“It is an exciting time and an incredibly challenging one,” the letter reads. “Unfortunately, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 continues to circulate. Little has changed about that. As more activities have resumed, our community is one of many with a significant increase in cases, test positivity and hospitalizations. We must be united in our efforts to reduce the spread of illness and lessen the negative impact of COVID-19 in our community.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services revised and extended its epidemic order ahead of Halloween weekend on Thursday, reducing the maximum indoor gathering size from 500 to 50 people. Indoor tables are now restricted to a maximum of six people in bars, restaurants and social events outside of private homes. The announcement comes as the state has seen rising COVID-19 positivity and hospitalization rates over the past month.

Time to get creative, residents say

Ann Arbor locals Molly Lumbard and Paul Mungar are planning on trick-or-treating with their three children at some of the homes in their neighborhood.

“Some houses are going to have a card table with candy spread out so that kids aren't digging through bowls,” Lumbard said. “I’d say probably the thing I was most nervous about is that no one was going to hand out. So, of course if no one was handing out candy, we would not plan to trick or treat, although we certainly would have put on our outfit, and at least got a knock on grandma's door.”

Mungar, a resident of Ann Arbor for eight years, said he has a history of designing elaborate Halloween decorations every year for their home, and with this year, he decided to get creative and organize a scavenger hunt around their neighborhood. Around 25 kids came in costumes to enjoy the day while following social distancing. 

He said it is possible to celebrate holiday safely and hopes other citizens can find alternative solutions to encourage kids to interact, even during these challenging times.

“This is something we can do,” Mungar said. “I really wish I would see more prominent and more creative thinking coming out right now. I don't see enough of it. It kind of frustrates me.”

Daily Staff Reporter Kristina Zheng can be reached at

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