Halloween trick-or-treating canceled in Avondale Estates

Masks are a common sight during the coronavirus pandemic, but those of a more festive variety will be missing this Halloween.

Avondale Estates has canceled trick-or-treating, the city said in an email sent to residents Friday morning, due to health concerns. The annual event typically attracts thousands of ghosts, goblins and super heroes from neighboring areas of DeKalb County, the city said.

Mayor Jonathan Elmore said Halloween is one of four holiday events the city has had to cancel this year and those activities are part of the city’s identity. The Labor Day Road Race, the Easter Egg Hunt and Dog Parade and the Fourth of July Parade and fireworks were also canceled.

“It stinks,” Elmore said. “We are not endorsing or condoning Halloween activities. We do not want it to be a super-spreader event. We just want to keep people safe.”

The small town is known for celebrating Halloween in a big way. Residents and businesses decorate homes and retail shops to compete for the most spooky and creative design in the city’s Halloween Spirit Award contest. The decorating contest will continue this year, but judges will make their evaluations virtually and the public will help pick winners.

Jen Newman has won the decorating contest twice while living in two different homes. It’s common during Halloween, she said, for passersby to be startled by smoke machines, sounds of ghouls and dogs barking or something falling from a tree softly atop their head. Last year, her father drew attention when he sat motionless outside in a zombie costume, she said. He would move slightly when kids approached.

The real estate agent said Halloween is her favorite holiday. She has hosted a Halloween party of 40 parents and children in her backyard to kick off trick-or-treating for 15 years.

“I get it,” Newman said, regarding the city’s decision. “We won’t let it ruin everything.”

Other metro cities contacted by the AJC had yet to make a decision on Halloween activities, including Roswell and Alpharetta.

Marietta City Manager Lindsey Wiles said Friday the city will cancel its HarvestFest Market in October. The annual Halloween festival traditionally includes a costume contest.

Dr. S. Elizabeth Ford, district health director for DeKalb County, praised the decision by Avondale Estates officials, saying it would be difficult for children to maintain social distancing.

“I don’t think anyone should be handling individual pieces of candy from neighbors. From a safety perspective, that would be a risk,” she said.

Ford said health officials will know next week if new cases for COVID-19 increased substantially during the Labor Day holiday weekend.

Flu season, which starts in September, is on the mind of health officials as well, she said. Symptoms during the first 72 hours of the illness can be very similar to COVID-19.

The health director recommends flu shots.

“We’re encouraging them now more than ever,” she said. “You want to be clear about what you have and it will keep you out of the hospital.”