Planning a Low-Risk, Festive Fall Event

Last year (Fall 2020), we curated info on how to host fall events with measures to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. While the addition of vaccines over the past nine months have made an impact on the illness, some communities are seeing surges in positive cases and hospitalizations as we head into autumn. 

If you are planning fall activities for your church or school, here are a few things to keep an eye on:

  • The CDC recently shared guidance that, in general, you do not need to wear a mask in outdoor settings. However, in communities where there is a high number of COVID-19 cases, the CDC recommends wearing a mask in crowded outdoor settings and for activities with close contact to others who are not fully vaccinated.
  • Vaccines currently are only available for ages 12 and older, so younger children are still vulnerable to the disease and the Delta variant.

    Note: To stay up to date on CDC guidance for gatherings, visit
  • In addition to reviewing CDC guidance, know your community and state’s public safety measures and recommendations regarding masking and vaccinations for public gatherings.
  • If you decide to require or strongly encourage face coverings, please note that a costume mask should not replace a protective mask. A protective mask should never be worn over or under a costume mask as this could restrict breathing. To keep it festive, suggest to guests and volunteers that they may be able to decorate their protective masks or find one that coordinates with their costume.
  • Remind guests and volunteers to stay home if they have been exposed to COVID-19 in the past 14 days or are showing symptoms, whether they are vaccinated or unvaccinated.

Making it Low Risk

Right now, gatherings that take place outdoors would be considered more low risk for spreading COVID-19 because of the constant supply of fresh air and the ability for people to spread out. Indoor activities, where it may be harder to social distance, would be considered more high risk. Offering low-risk activities that follow CDC recommendations may give your community a small taste of “normal.” With some creativity, your church or school could modify one or more of its autumn traditions.

How to Modify a Trunk-or-Treat Event

Trunk-or-treats events offer an alternative to walking through neighborhoods, knocking on stranger’s doors. The idea is to decorate the trunks of various vehicles and distribute candy in a personalized and fun way. Children can go car to car, receive candy, and enjoy the themes and decorations. Trunk-or-treats also offer an opportunity to reach out to the community with the Gospel and a positive message about your church or school.  

Much like the drive-in worship services some churches offered in 2020, it’s important to provide adequate space between cars. This can be done by staggering occupied spaces in a parking lot or by making sure vehicles are at least six feet apart.

You’ll want to clearly designate and secure separate areas for the following:

  • Decorated cars participating in the trunk-or-treat
  • Parking for families who are bringing their kids
  • An area for games, food, or other activities.

Note: If you are staging outdoor entertainment, here’s a tip to help with social distancing for seating: Instead of using a confined space like bleachers, ask participants to bring their own chairs so they can spread out across the lawn or parking lot. If your trunk-or-treat event includes hands-on activities, provide a hand-washing station for children and adults.

To prevent accidents that can happen when children mix with cars:

  • Designate a time for people to decorate their cars in place before the event starts and a time to pull their cars out after the event ends. This minimizes car movement during the event.
  • Remind participants to keep their cars turned off for the entire event.
  • Ensure all children are a safe distance away before allowing cars to move.
  • Watch for children darting into unsecured areas.

Considerations for Volunteers

Many volunteers will be necessary for the event to proceed smoothly. Consider how many you will need to do the following:

  • Guide decorated vehicles to their spaces for the trunk-or-treat
  • Direct traffic in and out of your parking lot
  • Control the flow of participants
  • Promote social distancing
  • Instruct all volunteers how to distribute treats in a sanitary way
  • Allow only prepackaged treats to be given away
  • Require the use of hand sanitizer by people distributing treats
  • Hand out treats individually, rather than letting multiple children grab candy from a bowl
  • In the alternative, have volunteers space out treats on a table placed between themselves and the children or place treats in individual baggies for the children to take.

Safety Tips for Guests

  • Have children follow a clearly marked, one-way path through the trunk-or-treat area.
  • Siblings can stick together, but all other children should try to social distance, especially if they are not wearing protective masks.
  • Require parental supervision for all children.
  • Ask parents to inspect treats before children eat them.
  • Urge everyone to respect the designated areas for treats and games to avoid accidents in the parking lot.

Don’t Forget to Have Fun

Once you have taken the time to manage all the potential risks you can identify, consider incorporating some of these ideas to ramp up the “fun” factor.

  • Have a trunk decorating contest. See who can create the most elaborate (ugly/beautiful/you-name-it) vehicle. Award a prize to the winner.
  • Announce a theme. Encourage people to dress in costumes and/or decorate their trunks in a way that matches the theme. Consider a traveling trophy, bragging rights, or a photo gallery on social media.
  • Reframe the games. Find a way to offer no-touch or low-touch games. Consider modifying the cake walk – a festival staple of days gone by. Place the numbered squares six feet apart, turn up the music, and get ready to give away some packaged fall cookies, sweets, and treats. Or convert “musical chairs” into “freeze dance.” Instead of scrambling for seats when the music stops, every dancer holds a pose. Anyone who moves before the music restarts is out of the game, until you have a winner. There are many ways party games can be modified, just waiting to be explored.

Posted September 24, 2020. Updated August 31, 2021.

The information provided in this article is intended to be helpful, but it does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for the advice from a licensed attorney in your area. We strongly encourage you to regularly consult with a local attorney as part of your risk management program.