Sunday, June 16, 2024

Meaford’s Halloween Haunted Candy Route Map Was an Unexpected & Positive Product of the Pandemic

In just a few days, doorbells will ring and costumed children will be collecting candy, some in grocery bags, others in plastic Jack O’Lanterns, while some will take an old school approach by using a pillow case.

We all remember our Halloween experiences from our own childhoods; it was a time for make-believe, a time for dressing up as our favourite characters or creatures, a time for creativity.

During the two years of the pandemic, much of what we traditionally did for fun was stripped from us in the interest of public safety, and as a result for two long years the majority of the annual events that many of us looked forward to were cancelled, or at the very least drastically altered, but when it came to Halloween in Meaford, the pandemic was a time to get creative and find solutions to save the fun.

During the pandemic period we were unable to gather in numbers, unable to host parties or other events to celebrate together, but for Meaford resident Anna den Hengst, those barriers to fun when it came to Halloween were a problem that could be solved, and so the Halloween Haunted Candy Route Map was born.

As den Hengst told The Independent earlier this month, after seeing discussions on social media about whether Halloween would or should even happen in 2020, she decided to create a ‘contact-less candy route’, and asked those in this community that could provide a contact-free candy collection experience to contact her in order to be included on the map.

The Halloween Haunted Candy Route Map allowed families to get out on Halloween knowing where to find homes that were providing contact-free access to their Halloween candy. Some in this community built upon den Hengst’s creativity by building chutes for candy delivery, adding some extra fun to what could have been a less than stellar evening given the pandemic’s many restrictions, which sucked the life out of many an event at the time.

As it turned out, the candy route map was a hit, so much so, that in spite of the pandemic having now been over for a year, the route map continues on, this year with a focus on accessibility. While preparing this year’s Haunted Candy Route map, den Hengst put the call out for folks who can accommodate trick-or-treaters with special needs so that they could be identified on the map, no doubt a comfort for parents of children with special needs for whom many homes include barriers that could otherwise spoil the Halloween fun.

I think most would agree that the more than two years that was the Covid-19 pandemic was a horrible time in our history, our personal lives, and for our economy, but throughout that unfortunate experience, there were some bright lights to be found.

In the midst of the pandemic, I wrote that we would very likely be assessing our response to the virus for years to come. Hindsight is of course 20-20, but it is always a worthwhile exercise to examine what we did right, and what could have been done better, and the pandemic provided us with a lengthy list of both. Looking back, there is much that we now understand could have been done better, or at least differently.

Pandemic protocols like social distancing and the wearing of face coverings when indoors for example, likely lasted too long. As we came to understand the virus, and how to treat those infected in order to prevent death, the virus became far less scary as it became clear that, though potentially lethal, it was much more manageable than we initially thought. In retrospect, I think we could have dropped most of the protocols in most places like businesses, gyms, and even schools, much earlier. But again, one of the benefits of hindsight is that we can always be right in our assessment, but in the moment, as a new virus was rampaging around the planet, most of the protocols implemented were done so with the best of intentions, but we all know the road that best intentions can lead us to.

The pandemic forced us to rethink how we approached many things, from the simple act of purchasing groceries, to how we did our jobs, how we worked out, or how we maintained a connection with the world at a time when we were being advised to stay away from others.

The upside of the pandemic was that in spite of the frustrations that surrounded us, we also saw some of the best of humanity. We saw neighbours checking on neighbours, we saw folks offering to deliver groceries or pick up prescriptions, we saw widespread appreciation expressed for those on the ‘front lines’ of the pandemic, from nurses and doctors to grocery store cashiers who went to work each day as most were ordered to stay home.

Meaford’s Halloween Haunted Candy Route Map was one of the good things that was born in the midst of the pandemic – it offered a sense of normalcy at a time when very little was normal. It reminded us that despite the many restrictions, we could still find creative ways to retain some fun, particularly for children, for whom the pandemic period must have been even more confusing and depressing than it was for many of us adults.

Happy Halloween everyone, have fun, and be safe.

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