200118_KMP_2020MEMORIALPARKRESTORATION_0001.jpg (copy)

Memorial park signage at the entrance to the park on January 18, 2020. The “Drive Thru Boo” event will be at three different Leisure Services locations on Oct. 22: East Athens Educational Dance Center, downtown Lay Park and Memorial Park. (Photo/Kyle Peterson)

Athens-Clarke County Government Leisure Services is once again providing the community with festive Halloween activities, but this year these programs look different.

Virtual and spaced out events have become Leisure Services’ go-to. In order to keep these events going, they have had to make some changes. Cathy Padgett, community relations specialist of ACC Leisure Services, talked to The Red & Black about how they have adapted.

The Red & Black: Which Halloween events are new this year to ACC Leisure Services?

Cathy Padgett: They are all listed online at accgov.com/halloween. The “Mystery Ghost Hunt,” “Creepy Creations,” virtual “Scary, Oozy, Slimy Day,” “Drive Thru Boo,” scary movie cinema and several more are all new this year. All of this year's activities are mostly new. The “Drive Thru Boo” event is at three different Leisure Services locations: East Athens Educational Dance Center, downtown Lay Park and Memorial Park. Each participant will drive through a spooky trail, and in the end, there is a sanitized goody bag for the children. Candies and other little Halloween items are stuffed inside the goodie bags. We used to offer Boo at the Zoo at Memorial Park where the kids went through a carnival, but this year, we adapted it to a drive-thru option available in different parts of the community. This way, it is fun for kids to wear their costumes and get a goody bag while staying in their cars.

R&B: How have this year's Halloween programs had to change for the pandemic?

CP: We used to do things in the gymnasium at East Athens Community Center, but then we decided to bring in events like “Drive Thru Boo.” We are spreading kids out while still keeping the fun, but we aren't in a confined place like a gymnasium. Also, we have drive-in movies. Last year, ACC Leisure Services purchased a giant inflatable movie screen and featured it in December. Our original plan was to use it again in the spring for outdoor movies, but then, COVID[-19] hit, and we couldn't do that. However, in June, we were able to have a drive-in movie at Sandy Creek Park. Last week, we had another movie showing at Southeast Clarke Park because we are trying to move this event throughout the community. On Oct. 23, we will be offering another drive-in movie in the mall parking lot in front of [J.C.] Penny’s, and the film will be “Hocus Pocus.” So, mainly, we are still making these events work just by keeping people in their cars for social distance. We maintain a social distance between the vehicles as well.

R&B: Have any of them been canceled, or just moved to virtual?

CP: None of our Halloween events have been canceled. We have adapted all of them. This is just a sign of the times, and we will be continuing this as we move into the Christmas season as well. I think we all have to realize it is a different world now, and that everything has changed. COVID[-19] has impacted schools, parks and people's daily lives. I think our staff has done a great job of recognizing that and adapting by presenting new programs that are fit for the times. For example, our "Play at Lay: [Four Eyes Livestream]" concert will be a live stream from Lay Park. This will be a performance with all Halloween music. So, we are using our social media outlets to get things going virtually. The “Mystery Ghost Hunt” is also fun because people register, get a packet and have it through November and do this event at different times.

R&B: Despite everything going on with COVID, why are you excited about this Halloween season's leisure activities?

CP: I am excited that we are offering such a wide variety of things to do. We have activities for kids, families and therapeutic recreation programs. I am excited by the way our staff has thought about their options. Instead of canceling, they asked themselves how they could still do these activities and be safe at the same time. It's important for kids to have a good time and have fun, and the staff is excited that we have made some great opportunities for them to have a great Halloween still.

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