The Halloween Block Party has become an annual tradition in Fort Payne. Organizers said that by moving it from downtown to the VFW Fairgrounds, it can continue and grow in the years ahead.
The event, scheduled Sunday from 4-7 p.m., is again presented by Twin City Used Car Sales. Fort Payne Chamber of Commerce Director Jennifer McCurdy said any other businesses that would like to participate and hand out candy during the event should call the Chamber office at 256-845-2741 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
“We hope everyone will join us in making this a fun event for our community,” McCurdy said.
There’s always been a certain amount of risk to the Halloween tradition of kids parading from house to house, knocking on doors and calling out "Trick or treat!" hoping to have their bags filled with candy because low visibility at night increases the danger of children getting hit by cars while dressed in costumes – a practice that originated as an ancient Celtic tradition of dressing up to ward off wandering spirits. Adding an element of uncertainty is the tendency for mischief-makers to play pranks and roll trees in residential yards with toilet paper on Halloween night.
Thus, the event started as a safer way for families to take their young children out for festive fun. It became known as a block party because as it grew in popularity, police blocked off a section of downtown for people to walk about more safely. Logistics required the police to re-route traffic away from Gault Avenue, which is part of Highway 11, a major state highway.
The pandemic added a new level of risk in 2020, as organizers initially skipped the event. But a safer alternative was found as families remained in their cars and the children, dressed as their favorite superheroes or ghouls, held bags out of car windows. Bobby Ledbetter and Twin City were key in making it possible, McCurdy said. City officials joined in to put candy in the bags, allowing the community to continue this tradition.
This year, with many people vaccinated and local COVID-19 case numbers dropping in recent weeks, the block party will allow people to park and mingle the fairgrounds on foot, providing an opportunity for more businesses, churches and civic groups to play a larger role. The format also accommodates businesses who liked the visibility aspect of having it downtown so families might check out their merchandise.
Because gatherings and trick-or-treating are still complicated, many people are choosing to incorporate cloth face masks into their Halloween costumes to reduce the risk for COVID-19 transmission. The threat is believed to be lowered in outdoor public settings, regardless of vaccination status, when combined with social distancing and the use of hand sanitizers.
McCurdy credited Ledbetter for keeping the event going and said that he makes sure every child is able to get candy, although others are encouraged to do the same.
Also in Fort Payne, Halloween already came early this year as the Parks and Recreation Department partnered with Cynthia Hancock and the DeKalb County Library Boo Crew on Monday for Stories and S’more at the Rotary Pavilion. The Rec Center’s D2Fit class, also participated, along with the Fort Payne Police and Fire departments.
These events are just two of the many Halloween-themed festivities planned this week, so no child should have a problem this year finding free treats to eat. Some organizations are choosing to hold Halloween events on Saturday since Oct. 31 falls on a Sunday this year. See a complete listing of the events in the Community Calendar.