Ashley MacSuga-Gage purchased about 1,000 pieces of candy last year for Halloween night. She began to hand them out around 6 p.m. and was all out just two hours later.
This year, MacSuga-Gage, the president of the Duckpond Neighborhood Association, and other community members won’t hand out candy at all due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With limited trick-or-treating opportunities, Gainesville residents are looking for alternative activities for Halloween. Several local groups organized family-oriented events to keep the frightful festivities alive.
In Duckpond, a lit porch-light will designate which houses are passing out candy, MacSuga-Gage said. While she’s not sure how many people will participate, MacSuga-Gage is trick-or-treating with her two daughters from inside her 15-door home. She said she wanted to minimize the crowds on the streets. Dressed like characters from the popular Broadway play “Hamilton,” the girls will go door to door hunting for candy.
While trick-or-treating, Gainesville residents should wear masks and maintain social distancing, said Dr. Cindy Prins, a UF associate professor of epidemiology. Halloween events can be safe as long as residents follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Halloween guidelines.
When handing out candy, residents should make sure to keep hand sanitizer nearby, Prins said. Only one trick-or-treater should dig into the Halloween basket at a time.
It can be difficult to respect social distancing while passing out candy, so residents should also try to limit the time trick-or-treaters linger, she added. The same concept should apply to trunk-or-treat events, where children pick up candy from the back of a car.
Last year, the City of Gainesville enchanted residents with its fourth annual HAPPYween Family Fun Day, which included activities such as face painting, city spokesperson Rossana Passaniti said. However, the event was canceled and replaced by Halloween on the Green.
The new event includes social distanced activities including a movie night, Passaniti said. It will be at Ironwood Golf Course, located at 2100 NE 39th Blvd., because it’s large enough for easy social distancing.
It kicked off at 6 p.m. with a candy drive-thru and pre-carved pumpkin contest. There will be a social distanced viewing of “Hocus Pocus” at 9:30 p.m.
“We hope folks like it, and that we’ll have a good time,” she said. “And, hopefully actually enjoy the opportunity to try something different.”
Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation, located 8528 E. County Road 225, will also host a drive thru event — with lions and tigers. While the foundation had never hosted a Halloween event, it wanted to give families an opportunity to celebrate despite the pandemic, co-founder Barry Janks said.
The foundation purchased 20,000 pieces of candy that it gave out from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Janks said. The entrance fee was $10 per person but free for children under two. Janks said over 2,000 people attended the event.
Staff and UF volunteers dressed in costumes and deposited candy into oncoming cars with white plastic pipes, Janks said. Children could catch the candy with their hands or bags.
“It’d be nice just to have some sense of normality in these COVID-19 days,” he said.