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Over the past few weeks, The Chronicle has tracked questions and concerns from area businesses, residents and others about Halloweentown scheduled for this fall.

The concerns center on health safety during the pandemic, traffic and parking issues, and business access.

Halloweentown

The kickoff to Halloweentown has been the lighting of a large pumpkin in the Old Town District of St. Helens.

Halloweentown is the City of St. Helens’ signature event each fall that draws thousands and produces significant revenue each year. In previous years, the event has included an annual children’s parade with kids dressed in costumes, trick-or-treating at local businesses’ front doors and creative scarecrows that locals make and hang in displays throughout town.

The Chronicle reached out to City of St Helens leadership offering a Guest Column to respond to the public questions and concerns. The following is the response from St. Helens Mayor Rick Scholl.

City of St. Helens Response Regarding Spirit of Halloweentown

The City of St. Helens is aware that some community members and businesses have raised concerns regarding the safety of the Spirit of Halloweentown festival this year in light of COVID-19. The safety of our community is always the City’s number one priority and any decisions made by the City Council and City staff are done with the community’s best interests in mind.

The City Council held many lengthy discussions to determine whether or not the Spirit of Halloweentown festival would be held this year. Due to the festival’s extreme popularity over the last several years, we anticipate that visitors will travel to St. Helens in October regardless of the festival being cancelled or not.

Rather than taking a reactive approach with no plan in place to accommodate these visitors, the City has worked hard to create a plan that provides a safe environment for both our community and visitors. This plan also creates a valuable opportunity for local businesses to see increased economic activity in this time when many have seen drastically reduced revenue due to the pandemic.

The City is committed to creating a safe environment for the community and visitors. State guidelines related to COVID-19 continue to evolve on an almost weekly basis. The City pledges to meet or exceed any current or new state guidelines and create a safety plan that is responsive to changing criteria, up to and including cancelling the festival if necessary.

The Spirit of Halloweentown festival will look very different this year compared to years prior. Currently, the City is implementing the following safety protocols:

• This year is a ticketed event with a 250-guest maximum. Spirit of Halloweentown event areas, including the Plaza Square, will be fenced off or have controlled entry access points during the weekend to ensure visitor limits are maintained.

• Ticket purchases include a parking pass to the riverfront parking lot. Visitors to the festival are being instructed to use the designated parking lot and not park in residential neighborhoods.

• Additional signage has been ordered this year to discourage parking in neighborhoods and direct vehicle traffic to the designated parking lot.

• No contact hand sanitization stations have been ordered and are being placed in numerous areas throughout the festival.

• Restrooms facilities will be sanitized on a regular schedule.

• Signage has been ordered with COVID-19 safety and physical distancing messages in place.

• Safety cones and 6-foot spacing markers will be placed inside the festival area to ensure physical distancing is maintained.

• Social distance monitors will be encouraging physical distancing. Festival visitors will be temperature checked and asked to wear a face mask.

• The City is working with new community volunteer groups this year to provide traffic and parking control assistance with the festival. This will also act as a fundraising opportunity for community groups that have not been able to raise funding for their groups this year as they have in years past.

We appreciate our public health and community partners. The City continues to monitor state guidelines and is proactively working to create a safe event for residents, local businesses, and visitors to our community.

Mayor Rick Scholl may be reached at 503-397-6272.

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