It could be tricky going trick-or-treating this year because of COVID-19. But whether you’re going door-to-door or keeping activities close to home, there are ways to keep Halloween fun and safe this year.

The key for the kiddos is to avoid large groups, reduce contact with individuals, keep a six-foot distance from people not in your household, don’t reach into a bowl to grab candy, wash hands, use hand sanitizer, and wear a mask – which may mean wearing a cloth mask instead of a costume mask.

And try not to scream, which can increase chances of spreading the virus in respiratory droplets.

People who are handing out treats this year should consider ways to reduce contact, like putting treats in individual bags that can be distributed to trick-or-treaters with limited face-to-face contact.

“They need to do it safely,” said Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services Director Jennie Lippert of trick-or-treat activities. “They should keep any encounter very brief at the door.”

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Some people are opting to put bagged treats on a table at the end of a sidewalk for kids to take and will watch the parade of costumed kids go by from the window. Others are inventing creative candy delivery systems, like sending treats through long PVC pipes.

Having kids reach into a common bucket of candy is discouraged.

While having cute kids come to the door on Halloween is a fun experience, Lippert said this may be the year for older residents to consider shutting off the lights to their house and bypassing the trick-or-treat experience in order to stay safe.

Lippert recommends following recommendations made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has specific guidelines for how to celebrate Halloween safely.


Some families are opting to not go door-to-door this year and are instead finding other creative ways to celebrate.

Scavenger hunts, a backyard bonfire, scary movies and treats in the living room, and upping the outdoor Halloween decorations can help create a festive atmosphere.

There are also community events still taking place that can be an outlet for families, like the annual trunk-or-treat event at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Willmar.

The church had considered canceling this year because of COVID but instead came up with ways to make it safe while retaining the fun.

Cassie Drenkow, director of Christian education, said families are grieving the loss of their normal lives because of COVID and “we didn’t want this to be one more thing that would be taken away. We wanted to provide a little fun.”

The free event will be held 6-8 p.m. Oct. 31 in the parking lot, which will feature decorations, a pumpkin patch and Halloween lights. Families will stay in their vehicles and drive by the decorated “trunks” to get treats that Drenkow said will be handed out in creative – and safe – ways.

She said people are “having fun and making adjustments” to their trunk displays in response to COVID. Kids are encouraged to dress up in their costumes and consider decorating their own vehicles for Halloween.

“Everything this year has been a challenge to rethink and rework and find creative ways to still connect with people,” said Drenkow.

The CDC says outdoor Halloween events are better than indoor events, but still advises keeping a six-foot distance and use of hand sanitizer.

Drive-by scares

The “Gralish Graveyard” offers an outdoor experience for people of all ages.

Located just off state Highway 23 between New London and Hawick (20955 115th St. NE, New London), Steve and Michelle Gralish decorate their yard with a drive-by display that’s a combination of kid-friendly and teen-spooky. Dramatic lighting of the display is on from 6 to 9 every night.

“Ninety-five percent of it is family friendly,” said Steve Gralish. “We don’t have a lot of blood and guts all over the place.”

On Halloween night actors will be in the yard to add to the drama. Bags of candy will be given to trick-or-treaters who are also encouraged to bring a new toy to contribute to the Christmas Toys for Tots campaign.

Steve Gralish is coordinator for the Toys for Tots program for a region that includes Kandiyohi County, McLeod County and western Stearns County.

For the past 20 years the couple has done over-the-top decorations in their yard for Halloween and Christmas but this is the first year they’ve combined Halloween with their effort to collect toys to give away at Christmas.

With so many people out of work and hurting because of COVID, Gralish said “the need for toys is going to be big” this year.

A large Toys for Tots box is in the yard next to the Halloween decorations for the donated toys.

Gralish said people who want to help on Halloween by dressing up as part of the graveyard scene can contact him at 320-212-8467.

A drive-up trick-or-treat event will be held 3 to 5 p.m. Oct. 31 at the Willmar Community Center. This event is for all ages.

A haunted house with the theme “Where Madness Dwells” takes place from 7 to 10 p.m. Oct. 24 and 30-31 at 800 Campbell Ave. N.W., Willmar. The cost is $10 per person.

Virtual Halloween activities

The Willmar Public Library is hosting several virtual Halloween events to replace the normal face-to-face events it typically puts on.

Some of the Halloween events, like pumpkin decorating contests, include submitting photos of entries to be judged online.

Photos of decorated pumpkins, which must reflect a book or a character from a book, are due Sunday, Oct. 25, to be eligible for the online voting and prizes, said Syrena Maranell, adult services librarian. The contest is open to people of all ages.

Kids’ activities have been online since COVID affected in-person activities at the library, said Samantha Lilienthal, teen librarian. She put together a number of “take and make” kits for Halloween, including ones for eye candy and mask making, and she is hosting an online party from 7 to 10 p.m. Oct. 31 for a small group of teens. The event will include watching a movie together on ZOOM and participating in a murder mystery where participants play roles in the interactive game.

“I’m a huge Halloween fan,” said Lilienthal. “Don’t let COVID get you down. There’s still ways to have a fun Halloween.”

Maranell said the library – which is now open to the public as well as its curbside service – has a variety of free resources available to help families celebrate Halloween, including books, movies and games.

She recommends her favorite Halloween movie, “Hocus Pocus,” that she said is a “not too scary” fun family movie. The library has other classic Halloween movies to borrow, like the classic, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” for younger kids.

Lilienthal said there are “grab-and-go” kits with Halloween-themed activities, like crafts and games, for families to pick up at the library.