Veranda Street Halloween decorations
Decorations like these on Veranda Street in Portland suggest a return to a more normal Halloween, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. (Portland Phoenix/Colin Ellis)
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In a sign of official optimism that things are continuing to head back to normal despite the continuing coronavirus pandemic, Mainers – and especially Portland families – can expect a far more familiar Halloween on Sunday, Oct. 31, including some special events planned by the Portland Police Department.

At the end of September, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is the country’s top infectious disease expert, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s Dr. Rochelle Walensky said families across the nation would likely be able to take their children trick-or-treating again, an activity that many families opted out of in fall 2020 before vaccines were widely available.

Portland’s Public Health Division developed this list of items to find in a safe Halloween scavenger hunt.

In keeping with that attitude, David Singer, spokesperson for the Portland Police Department, said the department and community policing officers will be hosting “Trunk or Treat” candy distribution events on Friday, Oct. 29 at several locations:

  • Payson Park at the Little League field from 4-6 p.m.
  • Riverton Park from 4-4:30 p.m.
  • Sagamore Village from 4:45-5:15 p.m.
  • Presumpscot School from 4-4:30 p.m.
  • East Bayside Community Policing Center from 4:45-5:15 p.m.
  • Munjoy South Playground from 5:30-6 p.m.
  • Reiche playground from 5:30-6 p.m.

Singer said families are welcome to attend, and candy will be individually wrapped. He also said COVID-19 precautions will be a priority.

Additionally, Singer said the department is issuing typical safety recommendations for Halloween, but not anything pandemic-specific.

For example, the recommendations include making sure trick-or-treaters wear reflective material or something that glows to ensure they are seen by drivers; drivers should be aware of surroundings and people in medians or crossing streets; candy that’s brought home should be checked before it is eaten, and any suspicious behavior should be reported to the police.

City Hall spokesperson Jessica Grondin said the city’s Public Health Division has also issued safety recommendations: trick-or-treaters should be masked (even if they are wearing Halloween masks), keeping distance from other groups, residents providing candy should consider placing it outside for kids to take on their own, children’s activities such as pumpkin carving should be done outside and in small groups, and indoor activities such as watching movies should be with people who share a household.

This is significantly less caution than was suggested last year when the city recommended everyone stay 6 feet apart, trick-or-treaters and homeowners should wear masks, only trick-or-treating with people from your household, and that homeowners should keep a disinfected table between themselves and trick-or-treaters.

Some things, however, will still look different than in traditional years.

The long-running West End Halloween Parade is no longer being organized, although there will be an informal gathering at the Reiche Elementary School playground at 6 p.m. on Oct. 30, with a performance by members of the Ideal Maine Band and attendees encouraged to wear costumes. Past organizers of the parade said there is hope it eventually will be reinvented after it was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic.

In East Bayside, there will be an Oct. 30 community brewery crawl supporting Maine Needs, an organization that provides people with basic needs such as clothing and hygiene products. Participating breweries are donating $1 per pour to the cause; more than two dozen food-and-drink establishments and businesses are participating.

Overall, new cases of COVID-19 in Maine have remained high, although officials have expressed optimism given the declining number of individuals being hospitalized. While the seven-day daily case average has dropped in recent weeks, it remains slightly higher than a month ago.