COOS BAY — Even in a year as spooky as this one, trick-or-treaters couldn't get enough Halloween fun Saturday. Across the region, costume-clad kids and parents packed into cars and did their candy collection in a whole new way.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging across the country, health officials shared recommendations throughout the fall warning families that they shouldn't engage in the traditional costumed parades from door-to-door in search of sweet treats.
While some still walked through neighborhoods as they usually would — some with face masks and others without — many heeded the recommendations instead and drove around town to a slate of organizations hosting drive-thru trick-or-treat events.
"It's doing something exciting, it's doing something out of the normal," said Tawyna Stumpf, an organizer at the Salvation Army's drive-thru event. "It is hope."
Stumpf said that organizers were worried they'd have too much candy for the event, with seven stations prepared with 250 pre-packaged goodies each. A pirate-themed station brought "treasure chests" full of chocolate coins, while a spiderweb-themed station brought lollipops adorned with pipe-cleaner spiders.
All 1,750 candies were gone within an hour, Stumpf said.
The event was even more special for the Salvation Army's team this year because of what happened last year, according to Stumpf. That year, the organization had planned a fall festival with free food and carnival activities for hundreds of guests, when the gymnasium's roof caved in the morning of the event, forcing leaders to cancel the whole thing.
This year though, volunteers got together to put on a Halloween event, albeit one changed by the realities of the pandemic.
"What we're trying to do is show people that community is still around," Stumpf said Saturday.
At the same time as the Salvation Army's drive-thru, cars piled onto Elrod Avenue, stalling in the middle of the street as they waited to turn into the Coos Bay Fire Department station.
There, department staff members were handing out candy to cars driving through. Kids dressed in the whole range of costumes — from farm animals, to Superwoman, to princesses, to ghouls — yelled the classic "trick-or-treat!" through rolled-down car windows, often with bags and pumpkin-shaped buckets held out.
"What do we say?" parents asked, reminding their kids to say "thank you" before driving away.
By just half way through the event, the department's Station #1 on Elrod Avenue had seen nearly 600 kids, organizers said. Department leadership ran resupply trips for more candy as the night went on.
At the department's Empire station, Jillian Black packed candy into plastic goody bags in preparation for incoming trick-or-treaters. Two hours into the event, that station had seen around 400 kids, Black said.
"It's really nice to still have the interactions, despite everything that's going on right now," said Jonathan Torres, Black's fiance and a third-year student with the fire department.
Torres and Black said parents had been gracious throughout the night, thanking the group for hosting the trick-or-treat event — and asking them where they could find more drive-thru Halloween festivities.
Torres' favorite costume of the night? A family all together in a car, with the driver and passenger dressed as plague doctors and the riders in the back seat dressed as plague-ridden patients, a clear allusion to the present pandemic.
Black said she was impressed with the work that some parents had done on the hair of some princesses who visited the station. A team of firefighters piled into an engine to depart for a call a few minutes later, leaving Torres and Black to lead the trick-or-treating table.
"We're just trying to spread some happiness despite all that's going on," Torres said. "It's nice to get some support from our community."
Halloween isn't the first major event to be disrupted by the pandemic — and it's sure not to be the last. The future of holidays is already on the minds of many, including the Salvation Army's Stumpf, who says her organization is planning new forms of food box donation and holiday meal programs to keep recipients safe during the pandemic.
"Thanksgiving's going to be different a little different. Christmas is going to be a little different," Stumpf said. "What are things going to look like?"