After waiting for state guidance because of COVID-19 protocols and restrictions — which have yet to materialize, the Mingo County Commission went ahead and developed plans for the upcoming Halloween holiday.
Mingo County Health Director Keith Blankenship told the council his understanding is that the governor is going to allow each county make their own community-based decisions about Halloween activities. The commission discussed the topic at length from all angles including COVID restrictions, safety issues, scheduling conflicts and parental concerns during its meeting Wednesday morning.
During the discussion, Tug Valley Area CVB Executive Director Wes Wilson and Vice President Tonya Webb updated the governing body on the CVBs proposed plans for Halloween night. Wilson and Webb told the commissioners their organization was waiting until the county had officially decided how to proceed with any type of festivities before finalizing their plans.
The commission expressed its gratitude that the CVB had approached them, however, Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith said the county’s rulings extended only to unincorporated areas and were not binding upon municipalities (the Tug Valley CVB falls under the purview of the City of Williamson). He went to elaborate that the county and local towns usually work together to develop plans for such holiday celebrations to increase safety and to coordinate traffic control. In addition, Smith said Mingo County also takes the actions of neighboring Pike County, Kentucky, into account.
“Halloween is a hot issue this year,” Smith said. “A lot of people want door-to-door trick-or-treating but many parents and local residents are concerned. I can see it both ways.”
Commissioner Thomas Taylor recognized those concerns but offered a different opinion, “The world is open. If people want to give out candy let them and if not they just don’t have to answer the door. We have got to get back to normal. Common sense has to come into play.”
Webb told the commission that of all the holidays to allow any type of celebration, Halloween is the by far the safest. She said children are in costume and are already wearing masks and oftentimes gloves.
Commission President Diann Hannah said she was concerned with traffic and other safety concerns because Halloween falls on a Saturday.
“I don’t think a weekend is a good night to have children out walking on roads with no sidewalks and no streetlights,” she said. “It will be the time a lot of people party. I would rather have trick-or-treat during the week.”
The commission considered having trick-or-treat on Thursday, Oct. 29, or Friday, Oct. 30. However, Wilson pointed out that Tug Valley High School has a televised football scheduled for that Thursday night and the following night is Mingo Central High School’s homecoming.
Smith ultimately made a motion that the county set the traditional trick-or-treat event on Saturday, Oct. 31, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. This makes the event end an hour earlier in effort to increase safety for children and drivers. His motion also stipulated that door-to-door activities will be left to the discretion of residents who want to give out candy and to parents who want to allow their children to participate.
“We want to encourage drive through events and trunk-or-treats instead of door-to-door activities,” Smith said.
Taylor seconded the motion which passed with a 3-0 vote.
Following the commission’s decision, the Tug Valley Area CVB, held a special meeting Wednesday evening. The group conducts an annual Halloween festival called Spookfest, however, West Virginia is not allowing any type of fairs and festivals this year.
The group decided to conduct a modified version of their event with a Spookfest Drive-Thru Trick-or-Treat. If approved by the Williamson City Council, the event will be held along Armory Drive in West Williamson with children remaining inside their vehicles and candy bags being given to them as vehicles pass down the street.
The Williamson Fire Department will conduct its annual Steve Casey Fireworks Show from the sports complex in West Williamson at 8 p.m. This will be followed by the CVB’s West End Drive-In showing of “Halloween” at 9:30 p.m. There will also be an additional showing of the movie on Friday, Oct. 30.
The CVB will also host Tony Moran, who played the Michael Myers in the original film, for autographs and pictures both days beginning at 5 p.m.
Full details of the events are available on the CVB’s Facebook page.
The Town of Matewan has opted for an earlier event. Children may pick up treat bags at the Town Pavilion on Saturday, Oct. 24, beginning at 6 p.m. No door-to-door trick-or-treating will be allowed.
The Town of Gilbert will not allow door-to-door activities and will defer Halloween events to those planned by the Larry Joe Harless Community Center. The center will host a COVID Upside Down Trunk-or-Treat drive-through event. The event will be held in the center’s parking lot from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 31, in conjunction with the timeframe issued by the Mingo County Commission.
The Delbarton, Kermit and Williamson councils had not announced official plans as of presstime.