River Forest is among many municipalities in the western suburbs and elsewhere wrestling with how to allow children to celebrate Halloween safely during a pandemic.

Village Administrator Eric Palm brought the issue to the village board six weeks before the Oct. 31 holiday to seek direction from elected officials. No decisions were reached after discussion, leading village President Cathy Adduci to schedule a vote on the matter at the Tuesday Sept. 29 meeting. 

“With concern for the public’s safety in large gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic, staff is looking for direction from the village board of trustees on how to manage trick-or-treating this Halloween,” Sara Phyfer, management analyst/deputy clerk, said in a memo to Adduci and the village board.

Palm said officials from neighboring Forest Park and Oak Park have indicated they are “leaning against” allowing trick-or-treating but most municipalities are hoping direction will come from the Illinois governor’s office or the Illinois Department of Public Health.

“Even if we tell people not to do it, some will do it anyway,” he added.

Trustees Tom Cargie and Bob O’Connell raised the issue of enforcement.

“There will be kids everywhere,” O’Connell said. “How do you control it?”

In her memo, Phyfer noted that River Forest historically draws trick-or-treaters from others areas and that those children may not be aware of restrictions.

Trustee Patty Henek suggested coordinating with neighboring villages, noting that the village is likely to attract even more trick-or-treaters from other areas if River Forest is the only community allowing the practice.

“It’s important to send a message,” Henek said. “We will need to reimagine Halloween.”

“We need to set an example,” Bachner said, noting that social distancing will be “impossible” because “kids bunch together.”

“We can’t keep people from doing it,” Brennan said. “People will look to the village for direction.”

“How can we enforce it or control it?” Adduci asked. “We’re going to have to work on what that means.”

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