Canby Celebrates a Halloween Like No Other

Coronavirus. Civil unrest. A looming presidential election that has drawn unprecedented interest and turnout — with three days still to go.

For Halloween 2020, there was plenty to be afraid of that had nothing to do with frightening costumes or candy-induced stomach aches.

In Canby, the holiday was destined to look different well before the calendar turned to the 31st.

More than a month earlier, the city had made the tough decision to not promote or organize trick-or-treating downtown — though businesses were still encouraged to decorate and celebrate the start of the holiday season.

Matt Morrissey, whose downtown restaurant and wine bar Wayward Sandwiches opened just in time for Halloween last year, marked the occasion by channeling everyone’s favorite assistant to the regional manager.

While the coronavirus pandemic has mostly taketh away this year, there have been a couple of new events that were actually started in 2020, designed to comply with the continuing social distancing guidelines.

One has been the Scare Fair, a brand-new drive-thru experience created at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds by four of the state’s best and most-experienced professional haunters: Fearlandia, Davis Graveyard and The Nightmare Factory.

Fairgrounds Events and Marketing Coordinator Tyler Nizer tells The Canby Current that the attraction had record attendance on Thursday, Friday and Halloween night — welcoming nearly 2,000 guests.

The Scare Fair has one more night to go: Sunday, Nov. 1. Tickets may be purchased online at CCScareFair.com.

Adjacent to the Scare Fair, and earlier in the day, was a Trunk or Treat event organized by local businesses and hosted at the fairgrounds’ blue lot.

Intended to provide a contactless experience for businesses and families disappointed by the loss of the Downtown Canby Spooktacular Village, the event involved driving through the lot with one’s trunk open, while costumed leaders of local businesses and organizations filled them up with bags of treats and other goodies.

Although not specifically positioned as a Halloween event, a cook-out and fundraiser for Canby fire victims turned even more memorable Saturday afternoon with a surprise visit by the town’s newest celebrities: the Canby T-Rex family. (See here for photos and video.)

On Halloween night, local households and families were faced with the question of marking a holiday in a time in which the traditional means of celebrating it (including door-to-door trick-or-treating and indoor costume parties) have been discouraged by public health officials due to a rise in coronavirus cases.

A number of families chose to venture out and reported positive experiences.

“Got lots of candy from several houses, and everyone did a good job keeping distance!” said local mother Cheyenne Yeager, who went door-to-door with a young zombie cheerleader and a fearsome grim reaper. “They had fun. It felt like every other year. They didn’t even mind wearing masks the whole time because it kept their faces warmer.”

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Jennifer Engelgau Peterson told the Current on Facebook that they handed out candy at their house, just as they had in past years — signaling their participation in the annual tradition in the usual way: Leaving their front porch light burning.

“Not as many trick-or-treaters as past years but the kids that did come got handfuls instead of one or two pieces,” she said. “Almost every parent said ‘Thank you’ for still handing out candy and letting the kids trick-or-treat like normal.”

A lack of trick-or-treaters was very much not a problem in some neighborhoods.

“It was non-stop from 6 till about 9:30,” said Scott Anderson, whose home was transformed this month into an elaborate hellscape featuring a battle between undead warriors and zombie pirates. He also decorated for Halloween.

At some points the line to “walk the planks” stretched past his neighbor’s house, Anderson said. He and his family handed out hundreds of pieces of candy — as well as about 350 Jell-O shots to parents.

“We only allowed one group at a time to keep in line with social distancing,” he said. “Everyone was so cool and respectful of others. It was truly a very fun night for us, and we are just happy we could share our fun with the town.”

Rob Oberg welcomed trick-or-treaters with this custom-built “candy chute.” Courtesy Rob Oberg.

Most of those who participated in trick-or-treating noted the need to do something resembling normalcy in a year in which so many bedrock institutions — from school to sports to church to events and clubs to even a trip to the local grocery store — have been deeply impacted.

“One mom actually teared up while thanking us for doing what we did. A large group of teens thanked us as well,” said Rob Oberg, a piping/mechanical designer at an engineering company in Lake Oswego, who built a 6-foot-long “candy chute” to hand out treats while maintaining social distance.

“I know more people have done the same for the kids, they really needed something positive in their lives. The kids have had too many things shut down for them this year. I wanted to give them one small victory.”

The Gitts family carried on a tradition that was already well-suited for the coronavirus era: pumpkin carving.

“We do this pumpkin display every year,” said Linda Hein Gitts. “It’s a Gitts family tradition with everyone carving pumpkins from adult to the littlest one at 4 years old.”

Courtesy Linda Hein Gitts.

Others started new traditions, like Kayla DeShazer, whose children went trick-or-treating at each door of their own house.

“It definitely was different than most years where we would have gone downtown, but we tried to make it memorable at home, and they enjoyed being able to dress up and still ‘trick-or-treat’ around the house,” she said.

“The kids definitely stayed awake longer than normal, though. Walking around town really tires a trick-or-treater out, and this momma is excited for next year (hopefully) when we can trick-or-treat downtown again.”

See more photos from Canby’s Halloween celebration here.

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