In a time when wearing a mask has been socially acceptable for months, here’s what Halloween festivities will look like in West Orange County this year.
A full moon and a Saturday night — it’s the perfect combination for a spooky Halloween.
Throw coronavirus in the mix, though, and this year’s festivities are a bit more complicated than in years past.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some Halloween activities can increase the risk of getting or spreading COVID-19 or influenza. CDC officials recommend event organizers and attendees consider the risk of virus spread based on event size and use of mitigation strategies.
In August, the pandemic forced the Ocoee Lions Club to postpone its annual Asylum Haunted Hospital fundraiser until next year. It also has shut down Winter Garden Masonic Lodge No. 165’s Panic on Plant Street haunted house, as well as the city of Ocoee’s signature haunted house.
However, not all is lost. Here’s how West Orange County is keeping the spirit of Halloween alive.
WINTER GARDEN HALLOWEEN EXPERIENCE
Halloween Fest is off this year, but the city of Winter Garden has something else in store for locals.
The spirit of Halloween is alive and well in downtown Winter Garden through the city’s Halloween Experience, which launched Oct. 23 and runs through Sunday, Nov. 1.
Halloween decorations and themed photo opportunities are located throughout the downtown areas, along with enhanced light displays. Even the Saturday Farmers Market has temporarily taken on a Halloween theme, complete with a hay maze.
A spooky caboose sponsored by the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation is on display at the history center, and scarecrows decorated by the city’s businesses and residents are on display at the hay maze and other locations.
Even City Hall will turn into a nighttime Halloween spectacle through an outdoor projection show. The animated light show takes place from 7 to 9 p.m. Oct. 29, 30 and 31.
Additionally, the Garden Theatre is hosting two showings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” which features interactive pre-show entertainment followed by the 1975 cult hit film. As of press time, the 8 p.m. showing Friday, Oct. 30, was sold out. However, tickets are still available for the 10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31, showing at gardentheatre.org.
HALLOWEEN IN WINDERMERE
Each year, the town of Windermere is known for hosting a fun-filled costume parade and hayride, complete with snacks and story time with the mayor.
Things will look a bit different due to COVID-19 safety precautions — the costume parade, hayride and Halloween movie night have all been canceled — but the Halloween fun in town is still on.
For Easter, the Windermere Police Department and Parks & Recreation teamed up for a parade throughout town with the Easter Bunny in tow, handing out eggs filled with treats. It was such a success, town officials said, that the police department once again will embark on a parade to hand out candy bags to the local children.
The Halloween parade begins at 10 a.m. and lasts through noon Saturday, Oct. 31. The route starts at Estancia Woods Loop and will conclude at Horizon Circle. Children are encouraged to wear their costumes and show off their Halloween spirit.
Additionally, the town encourages those who wish to safely participate in trick-or-treating to do so. Trick-or-treaters are advised to reduce their group sizes, wear a mask, walk on sidewalks where possible, and ensure all members of their group have a light source to make them visible to vehicles. The Windermere Police Department will hand out glow sticks to children during the parade on Halloween morning.
For those not participating, porch lights should be turned off.
“Some people in our community will choose to forgo Halloween this year in an abundance of caution or to protect vulnerable loved ones,” town officials said. “We respect their decision to do so and ask our neighbors to please be mindful of those who have chosen to not participate.”
SPOOKTACULAR PARADE WITH VILLAINS
If you’ve ever wanted to meet your favorite villain, SOUL Haven Ranch and Ever After Character Events has been offering the perfect opportunity to do so.
For the parades, the Winter Garden-based ranch offers its horse-drawn carriage services — complete with a pumpkin carriage — while Ever After Character Events sends three of its villains to ride along in the carriage and greet spectators.
Neighborhoods and homeowners’ associations can book a private neighborhood parade — which includes up to a two-hour visit with four stops for photos with the villains and their carriage — for $1,500 through Oct. 31. Parades can be booked for either a 3 to 5 p.m. or a 7 to 9 p.m. time frame.
Another option is a two-hour photo meet and greet with three villains and the pumpkin carriage. The cost is $1,400, also through Oct. 31.
Residents in communities such as Waterleigh, Cross Creek, Watermark, and Clermont’s Greater Hills are among those who have already enjoy visits from the villains and their pumpkin coach.
For inquiries, call (407) 509-1981.