Community gets creative for reimagined Halloween Happenings this month

When L.A. County officials announced they were strongly advising against traditional trick-or-treating or even trunk-or-treating this year, many lamented that, like so many things in 2020, Halloween would be canceled. But leave it to quick thinking community members who immediately started brainstorming on how they could provide a safe and fun reimagined Halloween experience for local kids and the community.

For Westchester resident Alicia Hood, the thought of not having a way to celebrate Halloween was a sad one, especially given that this is the first year that her 3-year-old son, Becker, had shown any interest in the holiday.

“I love Halloween! I’m the person who does the group costumes,” said Hood. “Seeing Becker get excited about trick-or-treating, but having to steer him away from it, made me think that maybe there was an opportunity to do something good here.”

Putting out a call for help on the Parenting in Westchester, PDR and PV Facebook Group, she found many moms and families in the same situation who were all trying to figure out ways to provide a memorable, candy-filled holiday for their kids, while in the middle of a pandemic and following Safer at Home orders.

With the help of a group of passionate, Halloween-loving volunteers, Hood is organizing the “Westchester & PDR Halloween Spooktacular: Scavenger Hunt and YMCA CARnival.”

The two-part event will start Halloween morning. Participants who have registered on the YMCA’s website will receive a map of  decorated homes and locations throughout Westchester and Playa del Rey. Each location will have an item for kids to find–think giant spider or a silly skeleton–which they will mark on their scavenger hunt card. Hood says that some of the locations will also feature surprises during certain timeframes, including goodies delivered via “candy chutes.” Finding all 20 items on the scavenger hunt will gain a family entrance into the Westchester Family YMCA CARnival from 4 to 7 p.m.

“This has been a joint effort with so many parents in the neighborhood, and we are really excited that the Y has decided to partner with us on the CARnival,” said Hood. “We have such an amazing community. I mean where else would people come together like this to give the kiddos something to look forward to on Halloween and not just be another canceled day. We’re really excited we are all able to come together and give the kiddos a Halloween they deserve.”

Playa del Rey resident Stacey Winget Cochrane, jumped on the opportunity to help and is part of the CARnival planning committee. She sees this event as yet another way the community is banding together during this difficult time.

“It has all been really amazing to see it come together,” said Winget Cochrane. “That’s one of the things I love about this community and neighborhood so much–rather than lament and be sad that ‘Halloween is canceled–’ a bunch of people came together to make something happen.”

While plans for the CARnival are still being finalized, the general idea is that participants will stay in their cars while they drive through the YMCA parking lot. Volunteers are working hard to create games and activities that can be quickly sanitized between users or are no-contact. 

While supplies last, the plan is to provide goody bags at the end of the CARnival.

As someone who had COVID in March, Winget Cochrane knows      the importance of being cautious during this time, and emphasizes that everyone will be required to wear a mask and volunteers will be social distancing as much as possible. 

“We’re all craving socialization, community and just being able to control something when so many things are out of our control right now,” says Winget Cochrane. “I feel so lucky to be part of this event, and if I see even one smile on a kid or adult that day it will all be worth it. I should say a smile ‘in their eyes,’ since we will all be wearing masks!” 

Waivers will be required for anyone participating in the CARnival. More details will be made available on the Westchester Family YMCA website and thehtn.com when they are confirmed.

The Playa Venice Sunrise Rotary Club, the service organization behind the popular Santa Tour, is taking the same magic they put into celebrating Christmas to create something special for Halloween.

Their plan is a Great Pumpkin Caravan, which will feature Rotarians dressed up as Peanuts characters, including favorites Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Peppermint Patty and more. The caravan will start in Playa del Rey at 4 p.m. on October 31st and will wind its way through streets in PDR and Westchester. Organizers say the caravan will last about an hour and residents can expect to see more than 10 spooky decorated cars, fun surprises, and of course, a huge Great Pumpkin! 

Said Rotary Club President Jerry Jen, “As Rotarians, we love being able to support our community while also having fun. In light of all that is going on right now, Playa Venice Sunrise Rotarians thought a themed caravan would be a safe, fun and festive way to bring the spirit of Halloween to our community and the kids.”

The caravan’s route will be released on October 29th via playavenice.org

The HomeTown News is also getting in on the Halloween festivities and is hosting a Hometown Halloween Pumpkin Decorating Contest and Community Costume Contest.

Open to residents of Westchester, Playa del Rey, Playa Vista and Marina del Rey, the Pumpkin Decorating Contest will run through Sunday, October 25th. Those interested in participating are encouraged to use their creativity to create a scary, funny or silly entry by either decorating or carving a pumpkin. Community members can enter the contest by emailing a photo of their spooktacular creation to westchesterhometown@yahoo.com.

All of the photos will then be uploaded to facebook.com/thehtn, where the community can vote for their favorites in different categories broken up by school level, as well as an adult and family category. The photo with the most votes in each of the five categories will receive a prize.

With no carnival this year, Visitation is instead inviting the community to visit their campus starting October 25th to take a photo in their hauntingly fun Viz Photo Booooooth! During the week before Halloween, the campus will be open from 7:45 a.m. to 6 p.m. for families to visit in costume and take a selfie in front of parent-created photo backdrops with themes like Dia del los Muertos and more. Share your pictures and the fun by uploading them to social media using #vizphotobooooooth (six O’s!) and #visitationschoolla.

While all these events were confirmed before press time, please visit us at facebook.com/thehtn for any updated info in case of changes or cancellations.

Is your group or organization holding a Halloween event this month? Email us at westchesterhometown@yahoo.com to be added to our list!

Photo: Westchester kids and Visitation students, Lorelei and Jack, get into the Halloween spirit. The school is inviting the community to visit its holiday-themed photo booth this month. Photo by Zsuzsi Steiner.