CDC says don’t trick-or-treat, so Tampa Bay parents spend big for Halloween-at-home, want ‘normal’ night for kids

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Business is booming in Tampa Bay when it comes to spending money on Halloween. Families are forking over big bucks right now – for good reason, they say.

It’s all about a return to tradition, to a part of our past where we didn’t worry about masks, standing six feet apart or the need to ‘social distance,’ a term people would have, no doubt, laughed at back in the day, right after they asked, “What is THAT?”

Parents tell us, their children need a return to normalcy.

This year, they tell us, it’s more important than ever to have that ‘normal’ holiday during a time when life has been anything but.

Ask anyone, and chances are, they’ll tell you the same thing. This pandemic has robbed us of the most basic pleasures, including moments like the time-honored, yearly event, now quickly approaching. It’s that special spot on the calendar, happening this weekend – during a pandemic.

Trick-or-treating.

Even amid this COVID crisis, one thing is clear. Families across America want to celebrate Halloween with their kids.

However, in the months leading up to October, that very thought seemed scary and unsafe, especially during sweeping lockdowns, mass testing for COVID and a spike in infection rates.

With the looming danger of a highly contagious virus, people came to one conclusion.

Holidays like Halloween would be impossible to celebrate.

As a result, large cities like Los Angeles came to a surprising, and ultimately unpopular decision, to cancel Halloween and trick-or-treating altogether. That decision was quickly met with criticism and subsequently withdrawn shortly after the announcement was made by city officials.

But, it certainly begs the question.

How do you trick-or-treat during a global pandemic?

How do millions of parents plan properly for this wildly popular, fan-favorite event that carries with it the excitement of a childhood rite-of-passage. Is it even possible during a pandemic to have kids go door-to-door, innocently interacting with strangers?

As a parent, how do you know who has the virus and who doesn’t?

Those questions have haunted many families, forcing quite the quandary. Many tell us they were left worrying and wondering – how can I pull this off safely?

Americans have long-discussed this pandemic predicament for months, searching for a simple, safe way to arrange the most difficult of circumstances. Trick-or-treating in 2020 is a seemingly terrifying task.

Moms and dads say they’ve struggled while discussing and brainstorming how to handle a large-scale, primarily outdoor event. Trick-or-treating is meant for the masses, where space is shared on sidewalks, streets and houses across the country.

It’s supposed to be a memorable moment, a night where kids in costume joyfully collect candy, as they stroll from house to house.

But, this is COVID.

Families are worried about all aspects of life – school, work, even simple, mundane errands like going to the grocery store.

So, enter Halloween night.

This is a tremendous concern for millions of families, where children spend typically spend time up close and personal with each other, with neighbors and, ultimately, strangers. Everyone operates in close contact non-stop for hours in cities across the U.S., a night where with endless surfaces are touched by countless hands, over and over.

So, the question looms – how do you handle this task of all tasks in a year like this? Before you panic, hit the pause button. Many moms and dads will tell you, they’ve got this.

Don’t ever underestimate a parent with a plan.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Determined and creative, that’s how families came up with a plan. And, while it may not be the preferred scenario, it is a safe, unique and now-popular alternative to trick-or-treating.

In fact, Bay Area moms and dads are showing a widespread interest in this “new normal” for trick-or-treating during coronavirus. It’s gaining traction everywhere as the countdown is on for Saturday.

It’s the ‘Halloween-at-home’ trend.

This effort is growing and gaining popularity, according to the National Retail Federation, encouraged by the Centers for Disease Control. It ensures safety among family members as coronavirus cases continue to climb.

Parents admit it’s been difficult to plan a high-contact holiday for kids during a pandemic.

But, they say they’re willing to try, and by all accounts, they’re succeeding – armed with a mask, lots of love and determination.

One Tampa mom told 8 on your Side, “We want our kids to have a normal Halloween night, or as close to it as possible. If we have to trick-or-treat around our house, then so be it. We don’t want anyone to get sick, not us or them.”

She added, “That’s how life has to be right now. You have to be careful with everything, even Halloween. We want our kids to be happy, but we’re not taking any chances. Just buying some candy and having the kids wear costumes in our house.”

Welcome to 2020. Families explain they’re craving all the normalcy they can get.

So, what better way to enjoy a piece of the past than shopping for Halloween supplies during the last week of October, a beloved tradition anticipated by countless kids every year.

Parents say they want this year, in particular, to be special, hoping their children have fun and enjoy the popular holiday.

With just four days to go, the party planning is busier than ever in Tampa Bay as parents and kids put their masks on and head out the door to a special store in Brandon. This well-known spot has a long history in the area, where the owners have been in the Halloween business for two decades.

In fact, on Monday people packed the store, clearly on a mission to find the perfect costume to wear during Halloween, trying to keep within the guidelines of a COVID-friendly Halloween, as recommended by the CDC.

Even though this year might look different, 2020 is, no doubt, raking in big bucks for this industry.

Just ask Richard Cabrera.

“We’re finding more and more families coming in, looking to be together, doing family parties inside their homes. We’ve actually been seeing an increase in that especially,” Cabrera told 8 On Your Side.

One of the top Halloween costumes this year is superheroes, a sought-after theme enjoyed by both children and adults. It is currently ranked number three among costumes for kids, according to the National Retail Federation.

Cabrera admits he was worried.

He told us he wasn’t sure how the COVID-19 crisis would affect his ‘Halloween Express’ store, but has been pleasantly surprised in recent days.

Business here has gone gangbusters, he says, with customers showing up in droves, masked up and ready to shop.

“They say the same thing over and over,” Cabrera said. “They’re tired of being locked down, they’re frustrated, they’re looking to have great memories with their kids.”

According to the National Retail Federation, Americans are projected to spend $8 billion dollars this year on Halloween, the second highest total consumer spending. Christmas ranks number one.

Seffner father-of-three Dion Green is a part of the Halloween-at-home trend and plans to spend Saturday night with his family, trick-or-treating around the house.

“At the end of the day, they’re still going to be able to trick or treat, we’re not going to let COVID stop everything,” said Green.

Cabrera tells 8 On Your Side that he’s talked with moms and dads from all over, and while this year is definitely different, there’s one thing that has stayed the same.

Parents want their kids to be kids.

Those families also want their children, above all else, to be healthy. The goal is clear – to be as safe as possible this Halloween amid a pervasive, far-reaching global crisis.

Cabrera says it starts here at home.

“You can see all the kids with masks, all the adults with masks, very rarely are we seeing anybody complaining. and, again, they’re just out to have a good time and to experience Halloween,” said Cabrera.

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