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Trick-or-treating may be out, but fun is still in this Halloween

The Kerns family is participating in Franklin's Halloween decorating contest. These are some of the decorations on their home.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

When the CDC issued guidelines on Halloween activities last month, traditional trick-or-treating fell squarely in the high-risk category. For people of all ages who love Halloween, and most especially for young children, one of fall’s best-loved holidays seemed destined to disappoint this year.

But Kaye Kelly, co-chair of the Franklin Cultural Council, saw it as a chance to rally.

“We’ve been busy all fall trying to figure out how we can help our community during these really difficult times,” she said. “Parents are worried and concerned about all that kids are missing out on. Halloween gives us a chance to come up with a positive way for families and kids to have fun, but also to engage the whole community and add some levity to a really uncertain time.”


And so Kelly and the other members of the Franklin Cultural Council designed something new this year: a house-decorating contest. Admission to enter the contest is free, and households had until Oct. 16 to register. The council will post a map of registered houses online.

When she read about the contest, Karen Kerns was delighted. “I love Halloween!” she enthused. “For years, I’ve wanted to do a haunted house, but we’re a little bit off the road and trick-or-treaters don’t always walk back to our house. When I found out about the contest, I thought, ‘This year we can go big!’”

Andrea Fitzhenry of Franklin was equally excited. “This is a nice inexpensive activity for parents and kids, going around after dark and seeing houses lit up and decorated,” she said. “It’s fun and it’s something you can do while social distancing.”

Inspired by her husband’s comment that the arched window over their front door looks like a pumpkin, Fitzhenry has for the past several years made a jack-o-lantern face in that window, peering out on the street. This year, her three children, ages 9 to 15, are working with her to generate new decorating ideas for the contest.


Indeed, although Governor Charlie Baker has said that the decision whether to allow neighborhood trick-or-treating lies with each individual community, numerous towns and cities are coming up with alternatives intended to keep children happy and everyone safe.

The Milford Area Chamber of Commerce has arranged a regional scavenger hunt on Oct. 24. Turn your quarantine pod into a scavenger team, costume up if you like, and work to solve clues and find items hidden throughout the 10 towns covered by the chamber. Cash prizes in numerous categories, including best team costumes and best team name, are part of the fun.

In Medway, would-be trick-or-treaters can still collect treats while observing best practices for social distancing at a drive-through “trunk or treating event” at Oakland Park on Oct. 29. Goodie bags made up of items donated by local businesses will be handed out, and families are encouraged to decorate their cars and wear costumes.

And the city of Newton is continuing a 21-year-old tradition with its annual window-decorating event. As Howard Sholkin, president of Newton Community Pride, explained, families who register on the organization’s website are invited to design a poster at home and will then be assigned a local business or storefront that will hang the poster in its window.


The Acton-Boxborough Family Network has organized an event called Spooktacular Spooky Streets, with local businesses as well as residents encouraged to create Halloween displays in their storefronts or yards. On Oct. 23 and 24, families are invited to follow a driving route supplied by the Acton-Boxborough Family Network to view each display. Along the way, two locations will be designated as food donation drop-off points to benefit local food relief organizations.

“These are events that everyone can be involved in,” remarked Liz Nugent, co-chair of the network. “It’s family-friendly and encourages social distancing. Older kids and younger kids can participate. Kids who want to put on costumes will still have a chance to do that. Halloween appeals to everyone, and this year can still be fun.”

Nancy Shohet West can be reached at

Karen Kerns made decorations for a contest in Franklin, where she lives.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff