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Calling all ghouls, ghosts, goblins: Sherman, Denison revamp Halloween festivities

Staff Writer
Herald Democrat
The cities of Sherman and Denison have announced plans for Halloween events amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. [Michael Hutchins / Herald Democrat[

As the Halloween season quickly approaches, Denison and Sherman are working on ways to make this year’s festivities a little less scary for parents. Both cities have announced revised plans for their annual Halloween events aimed at keeping residents safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For 2020, Denison will be replacing its annual Monsters of Main trick or treating with an event called the Monster Mash on Halloween night in Forest Park. Instead of trick-or-treating throughout the downtown district, the ghosts and goblins of Denison will be able to pick up pre-bagged candy with limited contact, city officials said.

“What we are trying to do with that is create a pathway is that it is one way and will allow people to remain socially distant,” Main Street Director Donna Dow said.

Dow said the idea came in part due to Music on Main, which was moved from its traditional home at Heritage Park to Forest Park just a couple blocks away. With the onset of the pandemic, organizers for the event turned for Forest Park as an alternative venue with more space to spread out.

Due to the success at this site, Dow said she felt it would be able to contain the crowds of trick-or-treaters as well.

By pre-bagging the candy, organizers hope to limit contact between people and speed up the process. A drive-up option will also be available for those who do not wish to get out of their vehicles.

“We feel like it will be a quicker process, and we have a lot of space in the park on sidewalks to keep things flowing, we think,” Dow said.

The annual event has become something of a tradition in downtown for many business owners, Dow said, adding that many were disappointed about the news of the changes this year.

“Many of them are disappointed, but most understand the reason we are doing this,” Dow said. “We want to be as safe as possible as spread is still occurring and we want to minimize the risk.”

The event will also include a public showing of the Addams Family in Forest Park, following the candy distribution.

Dow said she is hoping to see decent crowds this year and plans to have candy for about 2,000 visitors.

“If we were to have extra people show up unfortunately it will be first come, first serve,” she said.

Meanwhile, a Sherman tradition is being put on hold for 2020. The Sherman Police Department announced that it’s annual Fright Fest has been canceled for this year.

Each year, SPD hosts a similar event where community groups and other organizations get together to hand out candy to the public. On a good year, about 10,000 gather for the event, organizers said.

“We definitiely enjoy doing it, but unfortunately with COVID and the numbers that show up, it would be a crowded area and it would be safer not to do it this year,” Sherman Police Lt. John Kennemer said.

This marks the second time in the event’s more than two-decade history that the event has been canceled outright.

“When we had to cancel it previously there were people that were upset because they want to go out and be with people too,” Kennemer said. “However, I would be willing to guess that most of them will understand.”

Kennemer said he has heard rumors since the department made the announcement that Fright Fest has been canceled permanently. However, he stressed that this change is just for this year and it will return again.

In lieu of Fright Fest, Sherman Parks and Recreation will be holding Caravan to Candyland — a drive-thru candy distribution on Oct. 30 at the new Pecan Grove Park athletic complex. The event is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m..

“ During our discussions we wondered about how many kids would be doing normal trick-or-treating house-to-house (on Halloween),” Parks and Recreation Manager Theresa Hutchinson said, regarding the decision to hold the event the day before Halloween. “Since people need to drive through a neighborhood to get to that park, we were a little bit concerned.”

This will be the first year that Parks and Recreation has held this type of event.

“Since it will be in a parking lot, we feel we will be able to control the distance between the cars and stuff like that,” Hutchinson said.

While Fright Fest will not take place this year, another tradition is moving forward in 2020.Representatives with Sherman Main Street said the annual Trick-or-Treat on Travis will take place as scheduled.

The event historically has brought crowds of thousands to downtown Sherman with the promise of candy and Halloween festivities.

“Those blocks cover a lot of areas so we can spread out and we have a lot of businesses sign up to give out candy to the kiddos,” Main Street Director Sarah McRae said.

The event is currently schedule to take place on Oct. 29, the Thursday before Halloween. The event was last held in 2018 due to storms and heavy rain that canceled last year’s event.

“Our Main Street Board met and voted to go ahead and have it,” McRae said. “As a city department — the tourism department — we held events and felt they went safely. There were people ready and excited to come to them, so we decided that it could still happen in a way that we felt comfortable with and in a way we felt was safe for our community.”

McRae said organizers are still working out the fine details on how to best hold the event in a safe manner this year.

“We are still working out some of the details on if we will have one way for people to funnel in and out or multiple entry points in different directions, but we are going to choose whatever is the safest for a year like the one we are in.”

Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at mhutchins@heralddemocrat.com.