Happy October! Fall is a special time in St. Helens.

St. Helens Celebrates

St. Helens Mayor Rick Scholl poses with the big pumpkin, a centerpiece of the city's Halloween celebration, at Courthouse Plaza Square.

It’s when our city transforms into the Spirit of Halloweentown and we see a steady stream of visitors coming to discover a little of the magic that makes our city so special.

Celebrations for the Spirit of Halloweentown have grown and changed over the years, recently adapting during the pandemic. It was important to keep the pumpkin lit last year. It gave us a small reminder of something normal and became a symbol of resilience through dark times.

In the face of the pandemic during 2020, we made a difficult decision and changed the format of the event. With the celebration’s overwhelming rise in popularity since 2015, we knew that visitors would come regardless of COVID-19 restrictions, so we went ahead cautiously and deliberately, planning for the people that we knew would be here. We proactively took steps and made a plan to keep people safe while visiting. Of course, changes can be uncomfortable. We understand this, and we asked our residents to give extra grace and shine as the wonderful, welcoming community that we are.

As the pandemic continues and responses change, we are adapting this year while keeping health and safety central in the event’s production. One example of this is the cancellation of the big Halloween parade in 2021. While this event has been a huge success the last few years thanks to the community partners who plan and put this event on, there was no way that we could safely plan for the huge crowds that always show up for the parade.

The important part to me is that we continue to bring people together and offer a chance for people of all ages and backgrounds to discover our wonderful community.

As locals, we sometimes forget about one of our biggest assets: the Columbia River. I am someone who uses the river often; you can find me fishing every spring and fall. But many people who live in St. Helens forget about how lucky we are to have the river. We are reminded of that when visitors come to our city and see our riverfront. They comment about how beautiful it is and how amazing it must be to live in St. Helens with the river right on our doorstep.

The same is true of Spirit of Halloweentown. While there may be residents and community members who don’t like the event, there are people from all over our region, the state, and even the country and internationally that love Halloween. They happily make the long trip for a unique experience that only we can offer. Spirit of Halloweentown is an asset that we are lucky enough to have in our own backyard, and the visitors who come from all over to experience a little bit of that magic remind us of that.

I was walking around the Riverfront District during Spirit of Halloweentown a couple years ago and met a group of three adults and two children outside the haunted house. They were from Florida and asked me about places to eat. While we have a lot of great restaurants on our riverfront, since they were a family with kids, I encouraged them to visit Sunshine Pizza near the highway so they could see a different part of our city. It’s interactions like this that show the real benefits that are possible for St. Helens businesses and the community because of Spirit of Halloweentown.

We now welcome visitors every year from across the country and the world. They see our community groups and non-profits involved as vendors and volunteers during Spirit of Halloweentown. They see the beauty of our riverfront. They go into our shops and eat at our restaurants. They are thrilled to be visiting a place that we are lucky enough to call home.

October is our community’s chance to show the amazing potential of our city and the magic of our community members who make St. Helens a great place to live.

Rick Scholl is the major of St. Helens. He may be reached at www.sthelensoregon.gov.


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