Fewer trick-or-treaters than normal were seen in many neighborhoods Saturday, while those who participated in the Halloween tradition found ways to ward off the truly scary thing about this Halloween: the coronavirus.
On Chadswyck Drive, Drew DuBose rigged 7 feet of PVC pipe to slide candy to children. He decorated the pipe with spray insulation and paint and affixed a fake skull to the end, giving the effect of a gooey, gory pipe.
DuBose moved his family to Janesville from Georgia this year, taking his 6-year-old daughter, Roxie, away from her friends, and then the family decided on virtual schooling, pulling her from the new friends she had made, DuBose said.
The family had always put a lot of effort into celebrating Halloween, and DuBose didn’t want one more disappointment for Roxie, so they decided to decorate the house and let her trick-or-treat, with a pole that had a big plastic hand on the end and an orifice where candy could be dropped into an attached bag.
“I’m like, we don’t want something like this to stop us because this is our holiday,” DuBose said.
DuBose’s first customers were the Gant family: Audrey, 8, Owen, 6, and Ava, 17 months. The candy chute worked perfectly.
The Gant family debated about whether to skip trick-or-treating, but they decided to go early and be selective about where they went, wearing masks and keeping their distance, “to keep everyone—and ourselves—safe,” said the children’s mother, Elizabeth.
Another chute started on the second floor of Ken Scott’s house on Stafford Road. Scott had lots of scary sounds blaring as he sat in the second-floor window wearing a hockey mask.
Many other homes left candy out for kids to take, some in bowls.
Donna Jaehrling ordered a display rack online that had clips probably intended for snack foods. She clipped Skittles and other candy to the device, which she figured would be safer than a bowl, where different hands would rummage for treats.
Jaehrling had a notable display on Center Avenue, with a 12-foot skeleton with glowing eyes as its centerpiece. She also had rigged eerie projections in a window and next to a makeshift graveyard. Another projector gave faces to three pumpkins. The faces moved as they made creepy noises.
Halloween came at a terrible time this year, as Wisconsin experiences a spike in positive COVID-19 tests and hospitalizations. Rock and Walworth counties are among those who said their public health departments are overwhelmed and asked residents to help with contact tracing.
One adult resident put the pandemic and the holiday together. Jim Terrill said he hadn’t had a chance to dress up for the past seven months, so he got his tuxedo out of the closet for Halloween.
Terrill was walking across the street, where neighbors had arranged a trick-or-treat experience in the park, when it hit him: “Huh, I’m Count Covid.”
Neighbors brought tables and treats, and kids went from one to the next, Terrill said. One neighbor brought a backyard slide and slid treats to the kids.
“It was nice to see the kids dressed and out,” Terrill said.
Saying that Naleah Boys’ goals are out of this world is an understatement.
Boys, a Janesville resident and junior at the virtual Wisconsin Connections Academy, has combined her passions for outer space and reading into one bound project: her first book, titled “The Concise History of NASA Manned Missions.”
It’s one step toward her dream of becoming an aerospace engineer for NASA.
“I have a science library with over 150 books because I love reading and all of that, but there was never really a book that had all of the information I wanted about all of the NASA manned missions,” Boys said.
Her father, Neal Boys, teaches earth and space science at Parker High School. He suggested that his daughter do the research herself and create a comprehensive PowerPoint presentation.
After seeing her finished product, Neal wanted a copy for his classroom. That’s when the family brainstormed the idea for Naleah to convert the PowerPoint into a book.
She got the book done over the span of a summer.
“It really just came about through my passion of space,” Naleah said, “because it made me realize that this may be something that others want to read about, and so it made me want to put together my passion for reading and my passion for space into writing a book.”
“The Concise History of NASA Manned Missions” covers the Mercury, Apollo and Gemini missions and explains who was involved, when they took place, what happened, how long each mission lasted and the shuttles that were used. The book also touches on major events that occurred during each mission.
The 200-page book contains about 100 pages of information. It has doubles of each page, so teachers and others can cut them out and laminate them for classroom use.
Naleah has been fascinated by the night sky since she was young, and her relationship with her father furthered that interest.
“I’ve always had a passion for space,” she said. “Ever since I was really young, I’ve always said I wanted to build rockets someday.
“I’m really trying to get my foot in the door because one day I want to be an aerospace engineer and work for NASA in mission control. My ultimate goal is to be in that room when the first human steps foot on Mars.”
The book is just part of her career journey. Naleah and her father currently participate in the NASA/IPAC Teacher Archive Research Program, which pairs teachers and students with an astronomer to do real astronomical research.
The two are helping to map the sizes of black holes by measuring light curves within them.
Their shared interest has created a special bond between them.
“He has always loved space,” Naleah said. “All of my family has. The extra exposure to space, it kind of solidified my love for that area, and just going into the night sky and building model rockets growing up made me see that this truly is something that I want to do for the rest of my life.”
Neal called his daughter “special” and a great research partner.
“I know with a couple of these research projects, I had a good enjoyment for space and a passion for it, but based on her interest as well, it was one of the things that pushed me out of my comfort zone,” he said.
“I thoroughly enjoy the experience of doing it with her. It’s a neat opportunity.”
The project was supposed to end in January, but the pandemic has extended it for another year. The pair will present their findings to both NASA and IPAC.
Naleah doesn’t plan to begin another book quite yet. She wants to focus on finishing high school before earning a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in astronomical engineering.
Her father said the book shows what his daughter is capable of.
“The sky truly is the limit for her. It doesn’t surprise me (that she’s a published author), but yet I’m absolutely thrilled and excited for her to have this opportunity, and it makes me really proud.”
Margaret M. Cox
Mary E. “Granny” Honea
Robert E. Kline
Alfred “Al” Mohring
Corinne E. Parker
Ruth Lucille Schudda
Mary A. Thomas
Thomas William Zigler
Record numbers of absentee ballots have already been cast, and Rock County Clerk Lisa Tollefson thinks a record turnout is likely when Tuesday’s votes are added in.
Voters who plan to vote on Election Day can consult the list below for what they will need.
Tollefson said more than 50,000 Rock County residents had voted absentee—both by mail and in person—as of Friday morning. That compares to about 19,500 absentee voters in 2016.
Rock County’s record vote was set in the 2012 presidential election at 81,509. The 2016 presidential total was 76,851.
“I think we’re going to beat 2016 and 2012,” Tollefson said.
Local clerks saw spikes in voter registrations in the week leading up to the election, she said.
Janesville Clerk-Treasurer Dave Godek also expects a record, about 32,000, with about 25,000 of those absentee.
Godek said 7,000 to 8,000 might vote Tuesday, a far smaller number than in the past, but the city has reduced polling places to four, and with social distancing, lines could extend out the doors.
Lines might seem longer than they are, officials said.
The busiest voting times are always first thing in the morning and after suppertime, and sometimes lunchtimes, Godek said.
“If you can avoid those times, you’re probably not going to see a line,” he said.
Standing in line will be tolerable if the forecast of sunny skies and temperatures in the high 50s proves correct. The weather also could help boost turnout.
Some tips on voting and vote watching:
For a look at what’s on your ballot, see “What’s on my ballot?” on myvote.wi.gov or check news sources, including The Gazette’s online election coverage at gazettextra.com.
Janesville’s box is on the Wall Street side of City Hall, 18 N. Jackson St. Be sure to have a witness sign and write his or her address on the envelope.
If worried about whether the absentee ballot you mailed will be counted, check myvote.wi.gov
Those who drop off absentee ballots Tuesday, however, might have to wait several days before their ballot status is updated, as poll workers will be busy counting votes.
In Janesville, voters who normally vote at New Life Assembly of God, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, St. Mark’s Church, First Lutheran Church or Blain Supply will vote instead at the old Sears store in the Janesville Mall, 2500 Milton Ave. Those who vote at the Rock County Job Center, Mount Calvary Church or Faith Lutheran Church will vote at the Rock County Job Center, 1900 Center Ave. Those who vote at Hedberg Public Library or City Hall will continue to vote at those places.
The intense interest in this election could bring partisans to the polls. They are required to stay 100 feet away, which is close enough for arriving voters to hear them. If you encounter harassment, inform a poll worker. If you feel endangered, call 911.
The state Elections Commission says it’s a crime to hand out literature, carry signs or wear clothing with the names or slogans of candidates up for election when voting.
Patience. Results likely will be late, in large part because counting absentee b
Tollefson said she might have early results from towns at about 8:30 p.m., but totals from cities could come closer to midnight because of large numbers.
The tabulating machines include computers that must process and randomize the ballots before they send them—via double-encrypted cellphone technology—to the county clerk. Tollefson said she has seen the machines churn for 45 minutes before they send.
Walworth County Clerk Kim Bushey guessed she might have results by 11 p.m.
Milwaukee officials reportedly have said they expect to be counting until the sun comes up, so if the presidential election is decided in Wisconsin, the winner won’t be known until Wednesday at the earliest.
On the other hand, if Wisconsin and other “swing states” are not as important as some expect, then a presidential result could be known Tuesday night.
Voters must have lived at their residences for 28 days. Voters who moved after Oct. 6 must vote at the polling place of their old addresses.
See myvote.wi.gov for your registration status and list of documents—such as a driver’s license with current address or utility bill—that are acceptable for proving residence.
Gel pens can smear on the vote-tabulating equipment, which requires poll workers to clean the mechanism. Sharpies can bleed through, fouling the two-sided ballot.
“We’ve had a ton of people volunteer to be poll workers. It’s been awesome. I didn’t have to request any National Guard,” Tollefson said.