How to Plan a Fall Festival in 2020

Ensure a Sweet Time by Minding Tips on Social Distancing

Wondering if you can still host a fall festival, trunk-or-treat, or similar event this year? It depends on where you live, as well as how much risk you’re willing to assume. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you assess the current COVID-19 levels in your community before making that call. (The Harvard Global Health Institute offers real-time updates on its Risk Levels Dashboard.)

If local health officials allow gatherings amid COVID-19, offering low-risk activities that follow CDC recommendations may give your community a small taste of “normal.” With some creativity, your church or school may be able to modify one or more of its autumn traditions. 

Lower the Risk Posed by Traditional Activities

Many fall traditions, such as hayrides, trick-or-treating, and trunk-or-treat events, are being discouraged this year by the CDC. It says people should avoid these higher risk activities to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. It also offers alternatives that reduce the risk. The lowest risk activities involve staying at home. View the CDC’s guidance on holiday celebrations.

If your ministry decides to host an event this fall, despite the risk, it’s important to take precautions designed to limit the possible spread of disease.

For starters, limit the number of people who can attend your event, based on recommendations set by your local health department. One way might be to require advance registration and give people assigned arrival times. This could make it easier to control the flow of attendees, plus provide a list if contract tracing becomes necessary. 

Next, require everyone to wear protective face coverings. A costume mask should not replace a protective mask. 

Finally, take additional measures to lower the risk of infection by hosting an outdoor event with appropriate social distancing and sanitation. See the CDC’s recommendations on hosting gatherings

Here’s how you might modify a trunk-or-treat event.

How Trunk-or-Treats work

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, gather candy, and enjoy the themes and decorations. Trunk-or-treats may be done, day or night, and they offer an alternative to kids walking through neighborhoods, knocking on stranger’s doors. They also offer an opportunity to reach out to the community with the Gospel and a positive message about your church or school.

Parking Precautions

Much like the drive-in worship services some churches offered this year, 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, etc.

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

  • Have a designated time for people to get their decorated cars in place before the event starts and a designated 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.
  • Limit event attendance, per your local health department. 
  • Control the flow of participants.
  • Enforce rules and promote social distancing.
  • Instruct all volunteers how to distribute treats in a sanitary way. 
  • Allow only prepackaged treats to be given away.
  • Have all participants wear protective masks.
  • 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. 

Safety Tips for Guests

  • Remind guests to stay home if they have been exposed to COVID-19 in the past 14 days or are showing COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Encourage guests to wear protective face coverings, incorporating them into costumes, when possible.
  • Have children follow a clearly marked, one-way path through the trunk-or-treat area.
  • Siblings can stick together, but all other children should stay at least six feet apart from each other. 
  • 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 of 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

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.