By Jan Mercker

We finally get a full moon, Saturday night Halloween. Everything’s perfect except for the global pandemic. But COVID doesn’t have to spoil the fun. Around Loudoun, communities and organizations are looking for fun, safe ways to celebrate in this scariest of years. 

What will Halloween look like this year? The Loudoun County Health Department is discouraging traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating. But for the most part, it’s up to communities and individual families to decide what the holiday will look like. Around Loudoun, folks are coming up with ways to collect candy more safely, including attaching treat bags to clotheslines and giant spiderwebs and placing pre-packed bags on tables in the yard or driveway.

In Round Hill, 14-year-old Sam Hunter spent last weekend building a candy chute to allow trick-or-treaters to collect candy without coming up to the door. Sam and his parents live in the town’s Lakepoint neighborhood, a popular trick-or-treating destination both for neighborhood kids and guests from surrounding rural areas. 

Sam is a Halloween aficionado who was initially concerned trick-or-treating might not happen this year.

“I thought we weren’t going to be able to do it,” he said. “I wanted to find a way to do it safely.”

Thanks to ingenuity (and Pinterest), he came up with a candy chute made from painted PVC pipe with feet attached for stability. He and his parents can man the chute from the top of the stairs while trick-or-treaters can line up safely on the sidewalk.

In Round Hill, 14-year-old Sam Hunter spent last weekend building a candy chute to allow trick-or-treaters to collect candy without coming up to the door.

“Lakepoint gets a lot of kids from the neighborhood but also from the people who live more rurally,” said Sam’s mom Jenny Hunter. Everyone’s trying to be creative and wants to make it safe for the kids. … I think solutions can be found to the obstacles that the pandemic brings.”

If you’re not comfortable with traditional trick-or-treating and costume parties, the Loudoun County Health Department recommends the following alternatives:

  • Pumpkin carving or decorating outside at a safe distance.
  • Decorating homes.
  • Outdoor movie night at a safe distance.
  • Neighborhood costume parades at a safe distance.
  • Outdoor touch-free scavenger hunts in which children look for Halloween-themed items.
  • Virtual Halloween costume contests.  
  • Online photo contests for decorations and costumes.

In addition, local businesses and nonprofits are coming up with creative alternative ways to celebrate. Here are a few favorites:

Virtual Scares with Shocktober Online

Named one of the top haunted houses in the country, the ARC of Loudoun’s Shocktober takes things virtual this year. In partnership with the VIDI SPACE streaming platform, Shocktober will air celebrity guest “Scare-through” experiences on October 23, 24, 30 and 31 from 9 to 11 p.m. along with a bonus episode, “Ghost Hunt at Carlheim Manor.” Shock fans can watch Nikki Blonsky of “Hairspray,” Nick Groff and and local celebrity Wayde Byard walk through the manor and the fan-favorite basement.  Then, on Halloween night, Shock Fans will experience Shocktober as if they are walking through the entire haunted house themselvesTickets start at $10 per episode or purchase all four episodes and bonus for $25. For tickets and information, go to shocktober.org

A “Scary Spectacle” in Neersville

The artists who brought us the popular Wayside Wondercabinet drive-in art installation in Hillsboro this summer are back with their Scary Spectacle Drive-In Haunted House. It’s an artist-designed experimental scary spectacle. Visitors can drive in one car at a time (windows rolled up) and be scared. According to organizers, it’s “not designed with children in mind, but also not inappropriate for children.” Organizers also warn that the spectacle features flashing lights, loud noises and strobe effects, and guests may not leave their cars. The installation is open Thursday, Oct. 29-Saturday, Oct. 31 and Thursday, Nov. 5-Saturday, Nov. 7. Hours are 5 to 7 p.m. each night. Suggested donation is $5 per car. The event takes place at the Between the Hills Community Center at 11762 Harpers Ferry Road, Purcellville. For details, go to facebook.com/v4larts.

Ion’s FabBOOlous Drive-Thru Parade

Ion International Training Center hosts its FabBOOlous Drive-Thru Parade Friday, Oct. 30 from 4 to 6 p.m. Kiddos can check out performances and favorite characters from their vehicles and a goody bag for the first 100 cars. The event takes place at Ion International Training Center, 19201 Compass Creek Parkway in Leesburg. For more information, go to ionitc.com.

VFW Candy Drive-Thru in Leesburg

VFW 1177 is offering a Halloween candy drive-thru Saturday, Oct. 31 at 5 p.m. Kids in costume can drive by and pick up a goody bag at 401 Old Waterford Road NW in Leesburg. For details, go to facebook.com/VFWPost1177.

Inova Loudoun’s NICU Grad Costume Parade

Inova Loudoun Hospital is hosting a special socially distanced, drive-by reunion/car parade for Inova NICU “graduates.” Kids can come in costume to the hospital’s south entrance, grab a treat bag and go. 10:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Oct. 31. For more information, go to inova.org.

VAL Virtual Costume Contest

Village at Leesburg replaces its popular annual Monster Mash festival with a virtual costume contest. The center will offer an on-site photo backdrop to be used for the contest. The backdrop will be up throughout the month of October, and people and pets can submit photos for judging after November 1. The center is also offering a socially distanced pumpkin carving event Sunday, Oct. 25. Go to villageatleesburg.com for more information. 

Haunted Hike at Notaviva

For some socially distanced scare for a great cause, check out Notaviva Craft Fermentations and BSA Troop 961’s Haunted Hike at the vineyard. The haunted trail features scary zombies, wraiths and more, and proceeds benefit the troop. The event takes place Friday, Oct. 23, Saturday, Oct. 24 and Friday, Oct. 30. Tickets are $5 per person. Reservations are required and groups are limited to six people. Masks are required. Notaviva is located at 13274 Sagle Road, Hillsboro. For more information and reservations, go to facebook.com/notavivacraftfermentations

Halloween at Highroad

Camp Highroad near Middleburg is offering a socially distanced, timed-entry Halloween at Highroad event. The outdoor fun includes s’mores, archery, and a hayride on a customized schedule in two-hour increments. The event takes place Saturday, Oct. 31 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets are $14 and must be purchased in advance. Additional options including zipline, a family-oriented trick or treat trail and pony rides can be added for an additional fee. Camp Highroad is located at 21164 Steptoe Hill Road, Middleburg. For details, go to facebook.com/cmphighroad.

Friends of Animal Services “Boo Squad”

If you want to keep your littles at home and still have plenty of fun, volunteers with Friends of Loudoun County Animal Services will send a “boo squad” to hide 30 decorated Halloween eggs filled with candy in your yard for a $50 donation. It makes things super easy and supports a worthy cause. To sign up, go to facebook.com/friendsofloudounanimals.

Check out getoutloudoun.com and next week’s Loudoun Now calendar for more Halloween tips and tricks.