While many events have been canceled this year due to COVID-19, locals couldn’t resist taking the kids out for some holiday fun this Halloween.
One of many events held across the county last Saturday took place at Cameo Plaza in Arnold. The free event, which included pumpkin painting and costume contests with prizes, a haunted house, food and live music from Leilani & the Spooky Distractions, was a joint effort between Susie White, the owner of the property, and the plaza’s various businesses, including Artsy Parts and Arnold School of Music.
“We open our backyard as sort of a public space,” White said. “Our idea is to just make the space available for nice events and things to benefit the community. So, it doesn’t benefit me, and it’s just a fun thing for people.”
White said it was the second time a Halloween event had been held at Cameo Plaza in recent years.
“I think kids need to be out, because everyone is so cooped up,” she said. “We need each other and we need to support each other, and with this outdoor space, everyone can be outside, and there’s plenty of room.”
White said that she would like to hold the event annually.
“I would love to do it each year,” she said. “My idea was to sort of get it started, get the ball rolling, but then I can step back and let the merchants in the building and the neighborhood people keep this going on their own.”
Mona Baroody, the owner of Artsy Parts, organized pumpkin painting for the kids.
“We’re a studio, gallery, learning center and an arts supply store,” she said. “I’m already artsy, so it’s an excuse to be artsy and to let them get artsy.”
Baroody said she really enjoyed teaching art to kids.
“It’s an opportunity to encourage kids to love doing art, and that there is no right, there is no wrong, there is no mess up, there are no lines that they have to draw inside of,” she said. “I’m a teacher, so that’s what I love to do, is encourage them to enjoy the process, because it’s not about the product, it’s the process, because doing art brings such peace to your life, it lets you handle the difficulties in life, and that’s what I try to teach people.”
Thomas Bradshaw, of Arnold, wore a Pennywise clown mask as he served hotdogs from behind a booth. He is in the process of opening a new business in Cameo Plaza.
“It’s called One Man’s Junk, and it’s going to be a thrift store,” he said. “It will be going pretty soon.”
Michael French, of Murphys, said that he felt it was important to bring his son to the event for some Halloween fun.
“Halloween can survive any virus, and the spirit of Halloween is here, with the kids having a good time,” he said. “Every year we celebrate. Two days ago, I was a Care Bear. Yesterday, I was Superman, and now I’m Buzz Lightyear.”
French is a dentist and the owner of Safari Smiles Dental in Sonora, which specializes in dental care for infants, children and teenagers.
“We just teach children all day, so we’re in tune to Halloween at the office,” he said. “It’s their favorite holiday, and that’s why I brought toothbrushes to donate to the kids, so if they get too much candy, at least they can brush their teeth.”
Just down Highway 4, Chapel in the Pines hosted its annual trunk-or-treat event on Saturday. One of the main organizers, Trisha Crawford, said that the event looked a little different this year.
“We’re following all of the COVID rules,” she said. “We’re having to be much more creative and finding ways to get the candy to the kids safely and make sure they have a good time.”
While families are usually allowed to wander around the parking lot full of decorated cars, this year attendees moved in only one direction and the number of families allowed in at a time was limited. Hands-on games like ring-toss were canceled, there were no indoor activities, and the usual Halloween maze became a one-way tunnel. In addition, candy was passed out using pipes, tongs or grabbers, hand sanitizer was available, and the cake walk was held in a larger area that allowed for social distancing.
“Just having something fun for the kids to do is, I think, something to look forward to,” Crawford said. “I think it’s just really important to do something for the community of Arnold.”
Crawford’s son, Ryan, was passing out candy in front of one of the decorated vehicles.
“I’ve done this a couple of times, but never quite like this,” he said. “Normally we have a little inside thing going on, but we’re all outside and making it work. It doesn’t feel that different, you know, kids are still coming through, masks on anyways because it’s Halloween. … I’ve seen all of these places up and down Highway 4 that have done something like this, so it’s cool that people are coming out.”
The Rocky Hill neighborhood in Murphys has long been a popular place for trick-or-treating, and that was still the case on Oct. 31. As the sun sank behind the hills, families in full costume flocked to the neighborhood to carry on the annual tradition.
Shawna Pillado was dropping candy through a 6-foot inclined pipe into the bags of eager trick-or-treaters. She said that it was her first year participating in the event.
“I’m so sad that it’s not a typical year – it’s 2020 – but still, it’s awesome, and it’s so great to be up here and see all of the kids and the families,” she said. “It’s really nice to see them all out here and enjoying the holiday.”
Oz Jardine, of Murphys, was out trick-or-treating with his wife and kids. He said that his kids were excited to come out to celebrate the holiday.
“I was very happy that everyone realized that you can’t stop kids from trick-or-treating, and it’s much appreciated after the long year,” he said. “It’s huge to get everybody back to doing what they were doing before. I think the kids are relieving stress right now, and I think it’s great for the community. Everybody is respectful of the space and everything like that, and everyone’s working towards just having something back to normal. This has always been something that we’ve done with our kids.”
Bob and Judy Robertson have been handing out candy from their home on Rocky Hill Road since 1989. They said that they were grateful to be able to keep the tradition alive this year.
“It lifts everybody’s spirit,” Judy Robertson said. “It keeps the tradition. This has been going on for 40 years on this street.”
In Copperopolis, the annual Halloween event at the Town Square at Copper Valley, which featured candy tables, contests and pony rides, also attracted a large gathering.