'It's a completely different year': Westport prepares for Halloween in a pandemic

WESTPORT — Thom Perreault has assisted numerous customers prepare for Halloween over the past decade by choosing between ghoulish creatures and well-known superheroes — but this year is unique.

“I’ve seen it all,” said Perreault, a store manager at Spooky Town. “We’ve had snowstorms, hurricanes during Halloween. ... This year is like completely different. It’s a completely different year.”

This is the sixth consecutive year Spooky Town, a Halloween pop-up, has appeared in Westport. The store also has pop-ups in Orange and Stamford.

Perreault said this year the store has implemented safety precautions due to the coronavirus pandemic like mask wearing, social distancing, and not opening fitting rooms. Despite all of this, the enthusiasm is still high.

“Surprisingly it’s been really good,” Perreault said of business so far. “But people are going really crazy for decorations this year.”

The focus on decorations comes as many residents look for alternatives to typical trick-or-treating. The town is also asking residents to be considerate in how they approach celebrating the holiday this year due to the pandemic.

“We’re trying to discourage some of the large gatherings that historically take place, and encouraging people to celebrate Halloween and do trick-or-treating events in a smaller scale,” First Selectman Jim Marpe said.

More Information

Visit virtualhistorywestport.org/spooktober/ to see the list of Spooktober events at the Westport Museum of History and Culture.

The annual Halloween parade and trick-or-treating has been canceled, he said, but the Parks and Recreation Department is sponsoring a Halloween house decorating contest to keep the community spirit.

Marpe said the town sponsored a similar initiative when the annual Fourth of July fireworks ceremony had to be canceled this year.

“A lot of people participated and I think a lot more will participate in the Halloween decorations because that’s really become a thing in Westport and a lot of communities,” he said.

Local organizations are also looking to keep the community spirits up.

The Westport Museum of History and Culture is hosting its annual Spooktober, a month full of Halloween themed events, but with a twist. On Halloween, residents will be able to enjoy the eleventh annual lantern tour that’s now virtual.

“Obviously this year we can’t hold a live program because of the pandemic, but we decided we still want to offer something,” Nicole Carpenter, the museum’s director of programs and education, said. “We still would love for people to celebrate Halloween — it’s such a fun event in the fall.”

She said the virtual tour gives a history of the town’s cemeteries while also featuring videos of ghosts based on departed residents.

“We have 15 actors this year portraying 17 ghosts,” Carpenter said. “We’ve been going to the cemeteries with our costumed actors and filming their performances live on location to create this interactive video for people to view.”

The museum is also hosting a discussion about witch hunts in New England prior to the Salem witch hunt trials on Oct. 16 and a reading of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” on Oct. 21.

On Oct. 27, the museum will also collaborate with the Fairfield museum, as well as the Weston and Wilton’s historical societies, to present some of the spookier objects each organization owns.

“Now that we have the pandemic — obviously we want everybody to be safe — we still want to present that history, but also allow people to escape from their everyday life and maybe forget about the pandemic a little bit,” Carpenter said. “Have a little bit of fun and also learn something and have a bit of history in October.”