The excited chatter of children stuffing their bags with candy won’t fill the crisp air of downtown Gainesville this Halloween.
Both Trick-or-Treat on the Trail, which takes place annually at the Midtown Greenway, and Trick-or-Treating on the Square have been canceled.
Kate Mattison, director of Gainesville Parks and Recreation, said the decision for not hosting the trail proved “very difficult.” The event was originally scheduled to take place Halloween day.
On a good year, Mattison said Trick-or-Treat on the Trail draws 5,000 people to the Greenway, most of which are children. She said her department made the call based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control.
On the CDC website’s holiday celebration page, it categorizes lower risk, moderate risk and higher risk activities that typically take place in October. It labels traditional trick-or-treating as a “higher risk,” and recommends avoiding it, according to a previous article from The Times.
“It’s really sad and our entire staff were bummed to make that decision,” Mattison said. “To cram that many people in that small of space is just not something we felt comfortable doing.”
Nicole Ricketts, Main Street Gainesville manager, said all festivities for October on the square have been canceled because of the pandemic, including its trick-or-treating event.
“It’s been disappointing in general, and I know whole community has been disappointed,” Ricketts said. “It’s been a hard hit. We’re hoping to just continue the community spirit and think outside the box. We know downtown is the heartbeat of Gainesville, and we want people to feel connected to the community.”
To keep the essence of Halloween alive in downtown Gainesville, the city is encouraging local businesses, nonprofits, groups and families to participate in this year’s Squarecrow competition.
People have until 8 a.m. Monday, Oct. 5 to sign up and by Monday, Oct. 12 to display a scarecrow. Ricketts said photos of each scarecrow will be posted on the Downtown Gainesville Facebook page and a winner will be decided Saturday, Oct. 31 based on the highest number of likes.
The scarecrow champion will be presented with a $100 gift certificate to their chosen downtown Gainesville business.
Squarecrow applications are found at gainesville.org/main-street-gainesville. People must pay $30 to participate.
“It’s just a fun community display,” Ricketts said. “We’re asking people to keep it clean and family friendly. It’s a way to promote your groups, businesses and nonprofits.”
The square is also holding a Fall Sidewalk Sale from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 3, as a means of safely attracting more people to downtown. Stores are encouraged to extend their wares to the sidewalk and offer deals.
“We’re hoping to get some people downtown to support our small businesses,” Ricketts said. “The reality is some of our businesses are still struggling.”