Millsboro moves forward with holiday plans

Millsboro Police Chief Brian Calloway greets one of the trick-or-treaters during last year’s community Halloween event, facilitated by the police department. Plans are underway for a similar event in 2020, even with COVID-19 restrictions. (Delaware State News file photo/Glenn Rolfe)

MILLSBORO — Town leaders don’t want to be Grinches, especially during the challenging coronavirus pandemic.

Nor do they want to take the treat out of Halloween.

On Tuesday night, Town Council gave the green light to proceed with tentative plans for Halloween on Oct. 31 and a Christmas parade/tree-lighting event Dec. 5.

“As I think everyone knows, I am not a fan of canceling events. I’m of the mindset that we try to do as much as we can,” said Millsboro town manager Sheldon Hudson.

The town intends to seek guidance and direction from the state in staging these events. Delaware is currently in Phase 2 of reopening. Outdoor events of more 250 people must receive special permission from the state.

For Halloween, the town authorized traditional house-to-house trick-or-treating from 6-8 p.m. for children 12 and younger, as well as a community event in the parking lot at the Millsboro Town Center. That event has been facilitated by the Millsboro Police Department and has annually drawn hundreds of kids, accompanied by parents or older siblings.

Delaware National Guard Pfc. Deon Perez drops candy in a goody bag for Jacob Perdue at Millsboro’s 2019 community Halloween event. (Delaware State News file photo/Glenn Rolfe)

“A suggestion I thought of was drive-thru,” said Millsboro Police Chief Brian Calloway. “We could still do the event. We have a large parking lot. I could set up something for cars to come in, and we could certainly interact with kids and still be social distanced. If that is something council would be in favor of, I could make it happen.”

Council’s vote for Halloween events was 3-1. Tim Hodges, Larry Gum and Mayor Michelle Truitt supported holding both. John Thoroughgood opposed, favoring just the traditional trick-or-treating.

Mary Schrider-Fox, Millsboro’s solicitor, noted “there is a lot of days between now and Halloween, and I anticipate some sort of guidance about trick-or-treating or events like that that may come out from the state.”

Councilman Hodges urged caution.

“I am in favor of this as long as we take precautions for yourself (Chief Calloway) and your officers,” he said, adding that his concern “is for Chief and his officers, and if the chief is comfortable with the plan he has, I’m good with that.”

“Certainly, in taking your consideration and your decision, I can look at what we can do, and if it’s not feasible for us to meet these guidelines, I will not do that,” Chief Calloway said.

Councilman Hodges and Mr. Hudson both noted that it is at the discretion of town residents to decide if they want to open their doors and welcome trick-or-treaters.

Mostly all major festivals and events from spring into the fall have been canceled due to the pandemic. More recent additions to the cancellation list include Georgetown’s Wings & Wheels, Bridgeville’s Apple Scrapple Festival, Rehoboth Beach’s Sea Witch Festival and Sussex County Return Day.

COVID-19 has claimed one holiday parade so far. The Georgetown Christmas Parade, set for early December, has been canceled. Greater Georgetown Chamber of Commerce president Linda Price said the cancellation was due to Gov. John Carney’s current regulations, the state remaining in Phase 2 recovery and restrictions on school students’ participation in outside activities.

Parade, tree-lighting still on in Millsboro
Preliminary plans Dec. 5 are for a tree-lighting event, likely a scaled-down version from those in the past, and a parade, which may encounter insurmountable logistical/public health hurdles.

“I think it’s going to be difficult for the parade. I certainly want to see some guidance from the governor’s office,” said Chief Calloway. “And then the concern is also if there are all these regulations, how many people would show up?”

For a parade, enforcement of facial coverings and social distance requirements would be difficult, as the bulk of the police department would be on traffic control detail, the chief said.

There is also the strong probability there would be no bands from public schools allowed to participate.

“As far as tree-lighting, we have had private-school involvement,” said Mr. Hudson. “I’m all for doing as much as we can as long as everyone knows it may not be as robust as it normally is. Maybe a drive-in tree-lighting. Maybe hot chocolate and cookies.”

Councilman Hodges agreed.

“I would like to see us try. I personally would like to see the town open it up,” he said. “Maybe we end up with a parade. Maybe it is just a tree-lighting. But it’s Christmas.”

Mr. Hudson said he would like the governor’s advice.

“My first step would be to reach out to the governor’s office and say, ‘Hey, this is what we want to do,’” he said. “Even if it means more work for staff, it was really important to me to do all I can in my role to make as much happen as we possibly we can. If everyone else cancels their events, our event would be bigger and even more successful. There could be a silver lining here.”

Councilman Hodges said he is OK with putting in some more service.

“Again, I’m not going into it blind, thinking that we won’t have to do some extra work and spend some extra money on signage and probably end up wearing masks,” he said. “In my opinion, it’s worth the extra effort.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

Have a question, tip, or resources about the coronavirus pandemic? Submit it to our newsroom and we’ll do what we can to provide answers.