After much discussion and pressure from parents, Kutztown Borough Council designated Oct. 31 as Trick-or-Treat Night, rescinding a prior decision.
Mayor Jim Schlegel broke the 3 to 3 vote approving Trick-or-Treat Night. Arabel Elliott, Derek Mace and Council President Kevin Snyder voted against it.
After council opened its virtual Oct. 20 meeting announcing the Borough would not designate a Trick-or-Trick day and time this year due to COVID-19, Kutztown parent Deb Clauss questioned Council’s reason and requested they reconsider.
“We’re not preventing you from Trick-or-Treating,” responded Synder. “If you want to call your friends and family around your neighborhood, Council is not going to prevent you from doing that. We’re not telling you not to Trick-or-Treat; we’re just not going to designate. Council is in a no-win situation.”
Snyder explained that if Council designates Trick-or-Treat Night and someone contracts COVID-19, they will blame Council for having Trick-or-Treat Night.
Clauss disagreed. “People can blame things for anything they want but you need to provide conclusive proof that your kid got COVID” from Trick-or-Treating instead of at school or from going to the grocery store.
“It’s the biggest lapse of your responsibility to this community. We the people don’t hide,” she said. “I’m sorry; I’m very disappointed with this whole situation. These kids have had everything taken from them and for absolutely nothing.”
Clauss argued that Council would only need to designate Halloween as Trick-or-Treat Night and tell the community to participate safely by following CDC guidelines. She said people have been confused and fear fines and criminal charges.
Snyder clarified that there would be no fines or criminal charges for Trick-or-Treating.
Several council members raised concerns about families going door-to-door.
Council member Arabel J. Elliott said CDC’s guidelines for engaging in safe Halloween activities, which is three pages long of restrictions, would need to be followed to have a safe activity, “We have trouble now getting people to follow basic requirements and enforcing masking and distancing. To me, it seems unrealistic to expect that we could have an event like this.”
Council Vice President Derek D. Mace said the CDC lists door-to-door Trick-or-Treating and Trunk-or-Treat as high risk and Grab-n-Grab medium risk. Low risk activities include at-home Halloween activities with their own household members.
Not comfortable with Council endorsing high and medium risk activities, Mace said, “My daughters have lost lots of activities that they want to engage in, things that they will never get back like high school graduation, so I know this is tough and I know that this feels like a big loss and it is for kids. But children are going to be able to have Halloween activities at their own homes. The Borough is not committing to arresting anyone. In fact, we tabled and declined to enforce gatherings.”
“I don’t have the stomach to endorse door-to-door Trick-or-Treating this year,” he added.
Several other parents joined the request for Council to reconsider.
Kutztown parent Carrie Wessner wants to see Council establish rules such as no door bell ringing and not gathering on porches; otherwise people will do whatever they want and it could lead to confusion.
Clauss agreed. She plans to set out tables filled with individually pre-packed bags of candy for each child to pick up one at a time.
“That’s a great plan but it would be great if the Borough got on board and said everybody has to do this. Don’t let people come to your door and congregate on your porch. Everybody would have to follow those rules and it would be even safer,” Wessner added.
Kutztown resident Janet Chladni said Trick-or-Treating can be done contactless.
Council member Ed Seyler liked the idea of having tables setup with bagged treats where there is less interaction.
Snyder believes people will Trick-or-Treat whether or not Kutztown designates a night.
“We can’t stop Halloween from coming and we can’t stop Trick-or-Treating,” said Snyder.
Council member Zebulon Hull motioned to designate Oct. 31 as Trick-or-Treat Night. Seyler seconded, adding that people should follow CDC guidelines and anyone who does not want Trick-or-Treaters visiting should turn off their porch lights. The motion passed 3 to 3 with Mayor Schlegel breaking the tie to approve Trick-or-Treat Night.
Regarding a request for additional police presence on Oct. 31, Police Chief Craig Summers said officers normally patrol during Trick-or-Treat Nights. At this late stage, Summers said the department will not be able to have additional officers for 6 to 8 p.m. without scheduling overtime. He noted that additional officers are scheduled for later that night for other anticipated Halloween activities in town.