COVID-19 derails beloved Halloweekend traditions

Courtesy of Sandro Luis Lorenzo.

As COVID-19 restrictions have thwarted traditional Halloweekend celebrations, Vassar’s student body is gearing up to celebrate the holiday in a socially distant manner.

In previous years, Vassar students gathered for a Halloween rave in an outdoor tent. But with the campus regulations in response to the ongoing pandemic, those organizing this year’s Halloweekend have had to get creative. 

The Vassar Student Association (VSA) has planned events for Halloweekend that include both virtual and in-person events, including movie nights, cookie decorating, comedy shows and late-night food service from local vendors. Most of the in-person events will take place in the outdoor classroom tents to facilitate social distancing. 

VSA Chair of Programming and Directing Emily Chong ’21 shared that the VSA has planned events that adhere to the COVID-19 guidelines required by the College.

“We know this will not be the Halloweekend we have grown to love. However, our goal was to provide a variety of events so people would have places to go,” she explained. 

Chong emphasized that while Halloweekend will differ from previous years, they are trying their best to still provide fun and safe programming. 

“The planning process was hard because we really had to think about what events we could really put on, when also dealing with the disappointment of the pandemic derailing our usual festivities. However, other than that we are just trying our best to have something happen, even if it is on a smaller scale,” said Chong. 

Big Night In (BNI)—an organization on campus that provides substance-free events on the weekends—will also host Halloween events which include a Harry Potter murder mystery, a spooktacular Just Dance party, a scavenger hunt and a virtual showing of the film “Hocus Pocus.” BNI President Isabella Perez ’21 shared that planning began months in advance, and they are taking many precautions to ensure adequate social distancing.

“We have been talking about what Halloweekend might look like since this summer, given the new guidelines, and how we might keep the spirit of the witching hour from past years while maintaining everyone’s safety. During this semester, we’ve really gotten a crash course in how to run virtual events and we’ve found ways to adapt some events into a virtual setting,” said Perez.

She continued, “Not all of our usual events can be safely adapted into ‘COVID-safe’ events however, which is why, although board games and food-centered events like Cupcake Wars are a staple of the BNI event repertoire, we have decided not to have any in-person snacks at our events or board games.” Students will also be provided individual supplies at arts and crafts events to prevent community spread. 

Chong explained that in order to maintain social distancing, there will be capacity limits at events, many activities will require students prior sign-up and Safety and Security will monitor activities. 

Director of Safety and Security Arlene Sabo shared that there will be extra staff patrolling during Halloweekend. Some staff members will be assigned to monitor specific events. She mentioned that a few community members have expressed concerns about social distancing during Halloweekend, but that so far, the vast majority of students have followed the social distancing rules on campus. 

BNI is also providing additional security for their events. “We will have a BNI member monitoring the entrance so that attendees are admitted only when the previous group has left the space and who can direct attendees to the elevator for those who need it to access the space,” explained Perez.

This upcoming Halloween will include extra precautions and regulations. Despite these challenges, campus organizations are trying their best to provide worthwhile and safe alternatives for students. 

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