Shelly Cutler figures that a Snickers or a Kit Kat bar is an equally enticing treat whether it plunks into a kid’s bag or plastic pumpkin on Baker City’s Main Street, or in a parking lot a mile or so away.
Main Street’s sidewalks won’t be bustling with ghosts, witches and other creatively attired creatures this Halloween.
But Cutler said volunteers want to ensure that the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t play a nasty trick on costume-clad youngsters.
The Kiwanis Club of Baker City is partnering with the Sunridge Inn and the Baker County Chamber of Commerce to put on a 3-hour trick-or-treat event the afternoon of Halloween, which is on a Saturday this year.
Businesses and other groups will stack portable tables with sweets in the parking lot between the Chamber’s visitors center and The Sunridge Inn. That’s just north of Campbell Street and east of Birch Street.
The event will run from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. — 1 hour longer than the downtown trick-or-treating cavalcade that has become a tradition.
That extra hour is one of the changes designed to reduce the number of people congregating during a pandemic when such gatherings have the potential to contribute to the spread of the virus, said Cutler, who is both the president of the Kiwanis Club and the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce.
The expansive parking lot also makes it easier to achieve the goal that is one of the dominant terms of 2020: social distancing.
Cutler said the organizations that hand out candy will each be assigned to one parking space, with an empty space between each.
That creates about 9 feet between each sugar-laden booth, she said.
Unlike the rather helter-skelter downtown event, this year’s trick-or-treating will be more orderly, with kids and their adult escorts proceeding along a serpentine, and one-way, route that, appropriately enough, isn’t so different from the path in the board game “Candyland.”
There will be separate entry and exit points monitored by volunteers, Cutler said.
They will also ensure that no more than 250 people are going through the parking at one time.
The by now typical COVID-19-related precautions will all be followed, Cutler said.
Everyone will be required to wear a mask. Cutler said that’s among the recommendations the Baker County Health Department made in discussions with the Kiwanis Club.
The people distributing treats will also wear gloves, and they will drop the items into kids’ containers.
Baker City Manager Fred Warner Jr. said the city couldn’t support the usual downtown trick-or-treating due to the pandemic.
Cutler said Kiwanis Club members weren’t deterred.
“Our main focus is kids, and we want to make sure they have something to look forward to,” she said. “We think it’s important.”
Cutler, whose view from her office looks across the parking lot between the visitors center and The Sunridge Inn, thought it was a feasible site.
Cutler said that depending on how many groups sign up to dole out candy, some of the lot could be available for parents to park.
There is also parking available nearby on Birch Street.
She said organizers will encourage people to avoid parking on busy Campbell Street.
Cutler said the Kiwanis Club is working with the Baker City Police Department on traffic issues.
She said she understands that sponsoring such an event during the pandemic could bother some people. But Cutler said she’s confident that the spacing, mask requirement and other precautions will ensure the trick-or-treating is safe.
“I know there are folks out there who think this is a foolish idea and that we’re jeopardizing kids for the sake of candy, but it’s not that at all,” Cutler said.