JANESVILLE—Before Halloween becomes just another thing upended by COVID-19, the city of Janesville will spend four nights trying to bring a bit of normalcy back into kids’ lives ... if only temporarily.
Between Oct. 14-17, the city will host “Twilight at Traxler,” a rebranding of the Halloween festivities held annually at Palmer Park. This year, the events pivot to Traxler Park, 600 N. Main St., and include a few notable changes.
“There won’t be a Hollywood Hayride or Enchanted Forest this year. Instead, the city will host a no-contact event for families,” said Shelley Slapak, recreation director for the city. “The park will be lit up as we’re going to have lights on trees and other decorations for Halloween, including some inflatables.”
In past years, the Hollywood Hayride and Enchanted Forest also have featured actors and actresses performing scenes from popular films and fairy tales. Due to social distancing requirements and health concerns about the novel coronavirus, that format also has been altered.
“Enchanted Forest often saw large groups of people walking closely together from scene to scene,” Slapak said. “The biggest change, for safety reasons, is this will be a drive-thru-only event. There will be safety signage once people enter the park, and they will need to remain in their vehicles with face masks on.
“The other big change is the characters in costume won’t be acting, just waving,” she said. “And to ensure safe traffic flow, we ask that people keep a slow, steady pace of about 5 or 10 miles per hour, only stopping to view the scenes.”
About 10 scenes will be set up through the week featuring such characters as Mickey and Minnie Mouse and Rapunzel. Children can wave to the characters, but they must remain in their vehicles, and face masks are required.
Not being able to interact directly with their favorite storybook characters might be an unwelcome change for children, but Slapak also sympathizes with the young thespians who won’t get the chance to perform this year.
“It really breaks my heart because those high school students who volunteer really come together at Enchanted Forest,” she said. “They go to school all day and then volunteer at night, which makes for some pretty long days. But they just love doing it. This is hard for everyone.”
While the choice to cancel this year’s Hollywood Hayride and Enchanted Forest was difficult, Slapak knows it was necessary.
“In terms of safety, it was the right decision. But it was a hard decision because it’s an event so dear to us and so dear to the community,” she said. “I can’t wait to have it back next year.”
In addition to “Twilight at Traxler,” the city also will host a special trunk-or-treat event Sunday, Oct. 18, at Traxler Park.
“We have solicited local businesses, organizations and individuals who will decorate their trunks and provide candy,” Slapak said. “We will station them far apart from each other throughout the park loop.”
Attendees will not be allowed to walk from trunk to trunk. Instead, they must remain in their vehicles with face masks on. Children should bring their own treat bags and, upon each stop, representatives of the respective trunks will deliver prepackaged treats to vehicles.