Salem scales back Haunted Happenings with bleak COVID outlook for fall

Salem scales back Haunted Happenings with bleak COVID outlook for fall

SALEM, Mass. — The headquarters of Halloween will be scaling back its party this year.

Salem, Massachusetts, the town that welcomes around half a million visitors in October for a month-long celebration of the holiday, will scale back its red carpet amid a global pandemic that has crippled much of the nation’s economy.

“We are anticipating that we will still be in phase three in Massachusetts this October,” said Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll. “That will curtail the amount of people who can gather at the typical events that might happen in Salem during Haunted Happenings.”

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Haunted Happenings and the crowds it drives into the town of around 40,000 north of Boston plays a major part in the city’s economy.

According to a release, the city is working under the assumption that Massachusetts will still be in Phase 3 of its reopening plan. Phase 3 prohibits indoor gatherings of more than 25 people and outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people.

“We want to make sure we’re doing our best to plan for rescheduling re-visioning or canceling events that aren’t going to be able to comply with those fairly stringent standards,” said Driscoll. “In October we tried to make it a family friendly month long series of events, if you’ve been to Salem it’s not as though it’s any one particular event, it’s hundreds of mini events, kind of a street party atmosphere to make it so unique for people to be able to dress up and take full advantage of fall festivities in New England.”

Statement from the City of Salem:

At present, the following Haunted Happenings events and programs will not take place this year as they customarily do:

  • Haunted Happenings Grand Parade
  • Mayor’s Night Out
  • Kids’ Costume Parade
  • Lanterns in the Village
  • Biz Baz Street Fair
  • Creative Collective Merchant Marketplace vendors
  • Salem Food Truck Festival
  • Outdoor food vendors, including Fiesta Shows food trucks
  • Great Salem Pumpkin Walk
  • Haunted Harmonies
  • Howl-o-ween pet parade

The City is working to notify event organizers about the state’s reopening requirements for Phase 3, to ensure they are in compliance with those state-mandated standards.

Additional restrictions, based on the state’s reopening requirements, will exist for outdoor retail in the month of October. In general, the only outdoor retail that will be permitted will be for existing Salem businesses and in compliance with the state’s requirements for retail.

“It’s a huge loss to our community as far as dollars, meal taxes, hotel taxes, parking fees there’s a lot of revenue that comes into our community [...] these are hundreds of small businesses in Salem from shops and retailers and vendors - folks who make their livelihoods in the service industry that will be impacted,” said Driscoll. “It’s not just Salem, the entire region fills up - hotels across far and nearby are usually full.”

Buskers or street performers will also have limitations and must comply with social distancing guidelines and cannot cause groups to congregate in violation of the state requirements.

“I don’t think Salem will be a ghost town in October, there [will] still [be] shops and restaurants and museums open,” said Driscoll. “We’re going to focus on a real shop local effort for people to think about being a tourist in their own backyard.”

The City is evaluating the best course of action for Halloween night. Further details on planning and expectations for Halloween night will be forthcoming in the coming weeks.

Given that visitation in October will likely be diminished, there is an opportunity to support and encourage local shopping, eating, and exploring in our community. Through Destination Salem, the City will be launching a marketing campaign beginning in August and running through the fall that encourages locals, visitors within a 50-mile radius, and Massachusetts residents to visit Salem. Neither October nor Halloween can be cancelled, but they will look different this year as we move through the fall season while navigating the coronavirus crisis

“Halloween is on a Saturday this year, a full moon, daylight savings [...] we were geared up for a really big event and I think it’s going to be a real downsized event,” said Driscoll.

Currently, there are no plans to cancel or alter neighborhood trick-or-treating for families.

Those planning to visit Salem in October are still encouraged to utilize public transportation and should be aware that parking in the downtown area has been significantly reduced to accommodate outdoor dining spaces. Travel to Salem via the commuter rail or the Salem Ferry remain the best ways to reach the City.

Visitors should also be aware of the state’s requirements for travelers from out of state to complete a Massachusetts Travel Form and quarantine for 14 days or produce a negative COVID-19 test result administered within 72 hours of arrival in Massachusetts. The state’s order carries a fine of $500 per day.

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