Plans, Guidelines for Beggars’ Night in Central Iowa During Pandemic

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CLIVE, Iowa — Beggars’ Night is officially three weeks away for central Iowa communities. Many metro cities are still planning to go ahead with the trick-or-treating plans on Oct. 30th, but not without asking the community to follow certain social distancing and sanitation guidelines.

“We’ve really shifted from, ‘is Halloween going to happen?’ to ‘how can we make Halloween happen in 2020,’ because of course Halloween is happening. You cannot cancel Halloween,” Carly Schildhaus with the National Confectioners Association (NCA) said.

According to the NCA, 80 percent of the general public and 90 percent of millennial moms and young parents say they can’t imagine missing a Halloween and that trick-or-treating is simply irreplaceable.

This desire to celebrate is reflected in the candy industry. Halloween chocolate and candy sales are up this year, according to the NCA. Right now, compared to the same time last year, total Halloween chocolate & candy sales are up 13 percent.

Places like Halloween Express in Clive also says it is seeing people ready to celebrate the holiday. While foot traffic is a little down, it says purchasing is still up. Owner Brian Olesen said he expects it to only get busier as we get closer to the end of the month.

Right now the big items are decorations for the home are yards, but Olesen said he is also seeing many families coming in ready to get their trick-or-treat costumes.

“People want a way to get away from it all, so maybe you spend a night to go out. Many of them are planning home parties, you know, maybe individual parties or single parties, not necessarily the whole neighborhood. That’s what we’re seeing a lot of,” Olesen said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says many of the traditional Halloween activities like trick-or-treating or house parties are high risk for COVID-19 spread. Instead, they suggest several more safe, low-risk, alternatives:

  • Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household and displaying them
  • Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends
  • Decorating your house, apartment, or living space
  • Doing a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house admiring Halloween decorations at a distance
  • Having a virtual Halloween costume contest
  • Having a Halloween movie night with people you live with
  • Having a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with your household members in or around your home rather than going house to house

For people who still would like to participate in Beggars’ night and traditional trick-or-treating, the Iowa Department of Public Health released recommended guidelines for both parents and communities to follow:

  • For Parents/Guardian:
    • If taking your children trick-or-treating, limit the number of houses you visit and ask your children to maintain at least six feet distance from treat-givers. For small children, consider holding the bag for them.
    • Only accept factory-wrapped treats. Avoid homemade treats made by strangers.
    • Wipe off candy wrappers with sanitizing wipes when you arrive home. (NOTE: Never wipe unpackagedfood with sanitizing wipes.)
    • If your child is at greater risk of complications from COVID-19, contact your doctor before allowingparticipation in Halloween activities.
    • Stay local. Avoid the urge to attend events in another town – it can lead to greater spread of the virus.
    • Think before you go. Use the CDC’s guidance on deciding to go out to assess what’s best for you andyour family when it comes to celebrating this year.
    • Get vaccinated against the flu. Consider getting the flu vaccine before Halloween to keep you healthieroverall. While the flu vaccine will not protect against COVID-19, it can minimize your risk of getting sick or being hospitalized from the flu.
  • For Community Members:
    • If your community hosts trick-or-treating this year, do it more safely.
      • Refrain from having children select their own treats from a bowl/common container.
      • Leave individual grab bags (or paper cups) filled with goodies outside your door for children to take. 
      • If you can, watch and wave to trick-or-treaters through a window. Or, leave Halloween treats outside the door where friends and loved ones live for a contact-free way of celebrating.

The CDC is also warning against Halloween masks. They remind people to wear a mask at all times when around people who don’t live in your household to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, but costume masks should not replace the recommended cloth masks. The CDC states:

  • Do not use a costume mask (such as for Halloween) as a substitute for a cloth mask unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers your mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around your face.
  • Do not wear a costume mask over a cloth mask because it can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe. Instead, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask.

Altoona, Ankeny, Bondurant, Indianola, Johnston, Waukee, and West Des Moines state on their city websites and Facebook pages that they are still proceeding with Beggar’s night as usual on Oct. 30th from 6 – 8 p.m.

The city of Des Moines tells WHO 13 that it will make a decision about Beggars’ Night around mid-October.

“Because we continue to experience plenty of new COVID-19 cases each day, we’d like to see where those numbers are heading before we decide about trick-or-treating,” Al Setka with the City of Des Moines said.

The following cities are proceeding with trick-or-treating on Oct. 31st. Ames has recommended hours of 5:30-7:30 p.m, Newton‘s is from 5-8 p.m, and Ottumwa’s trick-or-treating is from 6-7:30 p.m.

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