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Salem’s mayor says many Halloween activities canceled due to coronavirus

Witch hats were popular on the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall last October during Haunted Happenings in Salem.John Blanding/Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

Mayor Kim Driscoll announced in a statement Tuesday that many of the city’s planned Halloween festivities will be either canceled or scaled back because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Likewise, private events organized by businesses and local nonprofits also will face limitations by state officials that are intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the statement said.

The statement said that neither October nor Halloween will be canceled, “but they will look different this year.”

“Many people inside and outside of Salem will be disappointed that their favorite, fun and festive October activities cannot take place this year,” Driscoll said in the statement. “However, as a community we are committed to doing our part to help protect residents, visitors, and staff and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Salem.”


Salem officials are assuming the state will remain in Phase 3 of the reopening by October. That phase limits indoor gatherings at 25 people, and outdoor groups at 100, the statement said.

Based on that guidance, while some events and activities may still be able to take place with restrictions, including several attractions, museums, walking tours, retail shops, and restaurants, many large-scale functions will not be held.

That will include several of the city’s “Haunted Happenings” events and programs, including the Grand Parade, Mayor’s Night Out, Kids’ Costume Parade, Lanterns in the Village, Biz Baz Street Fair, and the Great Salem Pumpkin Walk, the statement said.

The city has reached out to private event organizers to encourage them to assess those activities, “and begin the rescheduling, revisioning, or cancelling process now.” Visitors also are being strongly encouraged to call organizers of events and businesses in advance to confirm activities are still taking place.

Currently, there are no plans to cancel or alter neighborhood trick-or-treating for families, the statement said.

The city is still encouraging visitors to come to Salem, and will launch a marketing campaign this month.


Only existing Salem businesses in compliance with the state’s requirements will be permitted to have outdoor retail, the statement said.

Buskers or street performers also will have limitations, the statement said. They must comply with social distancing guidelines, and cannot cause groups to congregate.

Salem has a mandatory mask order in place, and violators face up to a $300 fine. The statement also called for social distancing, frequent hand-washing, and use of hand sanitization stations throughout the city during the Halloween season.

Driscoll said there is no doubt that the pandemic will have an impact on many small businesses, including museums, restaurants, shops, and workers who rely on the city’s increased business in October.

“We will strive to explore options to provide Haunted Happenings experiences that comply with state guidelines and encourage creatives and entrepreneurs in our community to do the same,” she said in the statement.

John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.