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Can Halloween survive a pandemic?

Posted at 6:51 AM, Oct 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-12 12:52:02-04

TULSA, Okla. — Normally a time for Trick-or-Treating, parties, and haunted houses, Halloween is expected to look a little different this year.

With a global health crisis and an biggest economic downturns, can the holiday survive?


Sacheen Platten, owner of Spotlite Magic and Costumes in Tulsa said, “Normally, people start coming in in July.”

"We had three or four months where we had very little business because a lot of our business is schools, theaters, events, and none of that was happening,” she said. That's scary for a business that orders all of its merchandise in January.

But now Platten said business is picking up. She’d even go as far as saying it’s booming – seeing a huge uptick in September. She said, "It's just been surprised we’ve had such a nice increase. It’s good to see Tulsa is wanting to have Halloween, but we’re trying to suggest safe ways for them to do it.”

That includes requiring masks, continually cleaning costume rentals, and asking people to be more cautious in the store.

Platten explained, "Usually, people are really wanting to try masks on a lot. We’re just asking them to really be more intentional about if they really are wanting to make the purchase, then they can try it.”

READ MORE: Halloween in Green Country: Celebrating during a pandemic


While costume shops are seeing business, what about other Halloween staples?

Matt Hiller, vice president of the Castle of Muskogee, admitted, "If we had canceled Halloween, it wouldn’t be devastating but it wouldn’t be any fun.”

Hiller said the Castle took a big hit when he canceled the Renaissance Festival earlier this year. It's a 25-year tradition, like the Halloween Festival.

Hiller said, “It’s huge. The Halloween Festival has grown from a single event for one weekend to a five-weekend event with, on a normal year, 11 events going on.”

But with five or six thousand people expected on a busy night, the Castle cut down on some of those events, especially activities for kids.

Hiller explained, "So, the kids aren’t continually touching more things that other kids have touched, we just felt like it was simpler to do away with Halloween Land. We’ve done away with the bounce houses and most of the games out here.”

They’re keeping other family events like the train ride, hay ride and catacombs but limiting capacity and lengthening the amount of space for lines to make way for social distancing.

"We’ve expanded our rooms to give the ghosts more room to get away from the people that may be coming through in their own group. We’ve also added a lot of animatronics... we’ve also required all of our ghosts to come up with a character that has a mask over their mouth and nose,” Hiller said.


Pumpkin Town Farms has a big advantage. Brigette Basse, co-owner, said, "We have actually seen a little bit of uptick in our attendance. I think that’s because we’re outdoors. We are totally outdoors. We’re on 20 acres, so there’s obviously a lot of room to socially distance.”

Like the Castle of Muskogee, Basse said a busy weekend at Pumpkin Town can bring in a few thousand people to the south Tulsa attraction. But with added safety and sanitizing measures, she’s happy to welcome families back in safely.

Basse said, "It really means a lot to people to get to take a break from all of this – all the worry. And just get back to some of the fall traditions.”

READ MORE: Halloween in Green Country: Celebrating during a pandemic


Nationally, it's a different story. MarketWatch retail reporter, Tonya Garcia explained, "I'm in New York, and we’re just getting to 25 percent capacity in restaurants here.”

Garcia said, “Data is showing that consumers are planning to cut their spending by quite a bit, by something like half... You’re going to see what folks might quickly turn their attention to the holidays and kind of bypass Halloween just a little bit.”

Retailers are aware of that. "For the retailers, it makes much more sense to focus on where more of the money is going to come from, and it’s going to come from the period after Halloween," Garcia explained.

And how people spend money depends on their behaviors.

A chart from the National Retail Federation shows how consumers expect to celebrate Halloween this year compared to last year. About the same amount of people say they’ll dress up in costume, dress their pet up in a costume and carve a pumpkin. Less people say they’ll throw or attend a party, hand out candy, visit a haunted house, or go trick or treating. More people say they’ll decorate their home.


That's something Sacheen Platten sees at Spotlite Magic and Costumes.

She said, "They're wanting to get new things for their house, even for their businesses. I’ve had a guy decorate for his dorm. I think people have been cramped up in their houses for so long. They want to do something that’s a little bit out of the ordinary, compared to what they’ve been used to.”

But the trick is do it safely, so you can treat yourself.

The CDC saidtraditional trick or treating and indoor haunted houses where people are screaming are in the “higher risk” category of Halloween activities.

However, local officials, like at the Tulsa Health Department, told 2 Works for You there are no guidelines or restrictions for activities like trick or treating at this time.

CLICK HERE for a list of more Halloween activities in Green Country.

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