Wearing a mask may be popular on Oct. 31, but not for the traditional reason.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Highlands Chamber of Commerce has decided to cancel Halloween festivities in Highlands.
“A lot of research and creative thinking has gone into reimagining Halloween for the thousands of participants that normally attend our Halloween celebration, unfortunately we have not found a solution that works within the current mandates,” Highlands Chamber Executive Director Kaye McHan said. “This year has been an extremely perplexing one because of the challenging circumstances related to the pandemic and the Chamber is looking forward to returning to providing concerts and celebrations as soon as possible.”
Halloween in Highlands draws large crowds to Main Street, where throngs of visitors wait in line for tricks and treats at local businesses. Over the years, the Highlands celebration has grown into one of the largest in the region.
With North Carolina in “phase 2.5” of Gov. Roy Cooper’s plan to reopen the state’s economy, large group gatherings are limited to 100 people if held outdoors and 25 people indoors. Mandated mask requirements and social distancing are also still required, meaning that thousands of people on Main Street would be a potential violation of the governor’s order.
McHan addressed the town board of commissioners to announce the cancellation of the Chamber’s Halloween event. She noted the trick-or-treating may still happen around town if neighborhoods or businesses choose to participate, but the centralized gathering has been shuttered.
“That’s a good point, I don’t think we can tell anyone they can’t turn their porch light on and hand out candy if they choose, but I can see the need to not create a mass gathering situation,” mayor Patrick Taylor said.
Taylor then asked if the Chamber had decided on whether or not to host any other public events through the end of the year – notably the Christmas tree lighting and subsequent Christmas parade.
“We are monitoring the state guidelines and we are keeping all options on the table for future events at this time,” McHan said. “Obviously, those two events aren’t until after Thanksgiving so we have some time to plan and see where we are in regards to what kind of gatherings are allowed.”