NEWBURYPORT — Though traditional trick-or-treating hours have been set for Greater Newburyport, some residents are considering alternatives amid COVID-19 concerns.

Sarah Hall, who lives in Cherry Hill, said her neighborhood is particularly popular on Halloween with people coming not only from Newburyport but also surrounding towns.

When the city announced its usual 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. trick-or-treating hours in a statement last week, it also shared a flyer from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for people to choose activities ranging from low to high risk for COVID-19. 

Hall was dismayed that the city left it up to families to choose – especially with trick-or-treating considered high risk by the CDC – saying "it's not appropriate for the city to offer a menu of risk-level options for individuals to choose from."

With no community consensus, Hall said this will make it complicated for people who don't wish to participate, especially for seniors and high-risk individuals. She recommended the city come out with clear guidance such as having all participants use the outdoors for passing out candy, so children don't have to ring doorbells with uncertainty.

Erik Scorcia, a resident of Bourbeau Terrace, is working with his neighbors to host small activities in a safe manner. This may include a socially distant costume parade, a pumpkin carving contest and individually bagged candy for people to grab without reaching into a bowl.

"We have neighbors with different comfort levels, so no matter what we do we want to be very transparent so parents know what to expect, and have something fun for the kids who will not be trick-or-treating, and will not be handing out candy," he wrote in an email.

Jillian McLaughlin Tilley, a local mother of two, said Halloween is her first-grader's favorite holiday and she wanted to make sure there would be a way for him to enjoy it, regardless of whether door-to-door trick-or-treating was an option.

Tilley launched Spooky Halloween Homes of Newburyport, a Facebook group for local people to share their spooky decorations with the hope they might "go all out" this year.

Before creating this Facebook group, Tilley posted in another group, Nice People of Newburyport, to gauge community interest and see what others were open to doing ahead of Halloween. Prompted by the suggestion of another group member, Sara Willman-Laplante, Tilley decided to create a map of all these decorated homes.

If families feel uncomfortable trick-or-treating or they are just looking for something fun to do, this Facebook group and accompanying map allow them to plan a drive or walk around a neighborhood just to see decorations, she explained.

Tilley made a Google form for people to submit their address and the date of when their decorations will be done. By using this method, she can weed out any trolls or fake addresses before adding the spot to the map.

For more, visit www.facebook.com/groups/3276861785731325.

Additionally, Alison Tames, administrator of Nice People of Newburyport, is working with local businesses to host four Halloween challenges on Facebook — the Haunted Homes Decorating Contest, the Family Costume Contest, the Howloween Costume Contest and the Pumpkin Carving Contest. 

For the Haunted Homes Decorating Contest, participants are asked to take a photo or video of their porch or home decorations and share a post to Nice People of Newburyport with the hashtag #NBPTHauntedHomesChallenge. Two winners, one for "Spookiest House" and the other for "Best Fall Decor," will receive $50 gift certificates to Green Plum Vintage Goods.

Kevin Riley of Partridge in a Bear Tree and The Candle Shoppe is sponsoring the pumpkin carving contest with the two best carvers each earning a $25 gift certificate to the gift shop.

For the Family Costume Contest, Don Jarvis of Operation Warming Hearts will award the winning family a vehicle pass to "Halloween on the Farm: A Drive-In Ghostbusters Halloween Experience" on Oct. 25, an event which sold out in two days.

For the Howloween Costume Contest, the best-dressed dog will receive a doggy gift basket, courtesy of Judy Hoover of Just Dogs Newburyport. 

For more information on these contests, visit https://bit.ly/30BR6yN.

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