The haunts will go on at Wallingford’s Nightmare on the Ridge in Auburn with socially distant, mask-wearing slashers, werewolves and haunted nuns. The scares start in five days.

At Mixer’s Nightclub in Sabattus, Halloween night — this year on a Saturday — is a huge annual draw, but Bob Barcelou is still weighing how to pull off a party or whether to even try.

So is the Auburn-Lewiston YMCA — to fright or not that night?

Amanda Cooper already answered that for her family. The Auburn mom started a Facebook page this week for Twin City homeowners to shout-out their address if they still plan to welcome trick-or-treaters. More than 225 people quickly joined the group.

“I like that the community is coming together to provide our youth with a little normality and joy with a time-honored tradition through these turbulent times,” Cooper said.

Halloween is six weeks off and it’ll be scary different this year with events canceled or altered and parents left to decide if their children can go out safely during the pandemic or if it makes more sense to celebrate at home.

The National Retail Federation last week forecast spending nationally on Halloween will be down $800,000 this year, from $8.8 billion last year. Though fewer will take part, those consumers who do celebrate are expected to spend a little more this year on candy, decorations and costumes — an average $92.12 each compared to $86.27 in 2019.

Curtis Picard, president and CEO of the Retail Association of Maine, said he hasn’t been hearing retailers’ Halloween-related concerns.

“They are honestly spending more time on figuring out holiday shopping and how that will work this year,” he said.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control & Protection, when asked for Halloween advice during a briefing last week said it was too soon to know what would be happening with COVID-19.

“When it comes to Halloween and trick-or-treating, there’s a certain potential allure of a holiday where everyone is already wearing a mask,” said Shah. “(It’s) impossible to predict, but we should go in thinking not whether or not Halloween will happen or won’t happen, but rather how we can work together now to lay the groundwork for it to happen safely in six weeks.”

Jeff Strout works outside the “spider barn” Wednesday at the Nightmare on the Ridge in Auburn. “We have some very large arachnids in there,” said Strout. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Erring on the side of caution, the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce canceled its annual business-sponsored trick-or-treating event that draws hundreds of kids to both downtowns.

“We don’t see a way to support this in a safe way this year,” said President Shanna Cox.

CEO Steve Wallace at the YMCA said he’s put off a final decision on Halloween plans until the end of September.

“We are kind of watching where COVID goes, but have been thinking about doing an outside event at our Outdoor Learning and Education Center vs. indoor event,” he said.

Leroy Walker, an Auburn city councilor and president of the United New Auburn Association, said the association’s 10th annual Hello-ween will be held on Oct. 31 but entirely contained within Anniversary Park.

“It’s changed totally,” he said. “We’re not going to go along the streets to businesses because I’m afraid that it would be too dangerous going in and out of businesses.”

Kids will instead find a series of pop-up tents in the park to visit for candy. Games will be limited this year to guessing games where you write the answer down and keep the pencil.

“We decided we want to go with it and give it a shot and keep everybody safe,” Walker said. “We really believe we can pull this off safely. Kids are being restrained from so much as it is, I think we’ve got to pay attention to give them the opportunity to be able to get out.”

Barcelou at Mixer’s said Halloween has been one of the nightclub’s biggest celebrations.

“However, if the governor does not allow more people inside at businesses like ours we can’t do our annual party,” he said.

Among the area’s Halloween attractions, organizers opted to cancel the 14th annual Haunting at Parsonsfield Seminary, but will decorate the windows and may station a Dracula and zombie to enjoy while driving by. The Halloween Haunted Trail of Livermore was still wait-and-see last week and Pineland Farms is offering its four-acre corn maze with limited, timed tickets, according to event websites and to social media posts.

“Given the amount of regulations and restrictions currently in place, I decided that I did not want to attempt WICKED this year, unfortunately,” said Nicholas Graham, longtime organizer of WICKED: The River Valley Haunted Walk in Mexico. “Hopefully that means it’ll be twice as awesome next year.”

Peter Ricker, who oversees Wallingford’s Fruit House and the Nightmare walk, said they’ve added timed ticketing to avoid massive lines. Groups will leave every few minutes and only with the people they booked with, no strangers.

“(There’s) very little chance of mixing with other people,” he said.

In addition, they’ve worked more electronics and microphones into scenes for scares and reduced the number of actors, all of whom will wear face coverings.

“They need to holler, they need to be able to scream, but the masks that we purchased — specifically because of this (COVID) — allow actors to do that,” Ricker said.

Since the changes will mean fewer customers going through the attraction each night, he’s added Thursday nights.

Ricker said he’s prepared for the state to abruptly step in, deciding events like his shouldn’t happen for health reasons, but is hoping it won’t be the case.

“Right from the get-go, we planned on doing it,” Ricker said. “Myself and the people I work with absolutely love doing this. I feel pretty confident that we are 100% good to go unless, God forbid, there’s another (East Millinocket) wedding or fiasco or something.”

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