City of Salem Announces Changes to Official Haunted Happenings Events & Programs for 2020

City of Salem Announces First Plans for October 2020

Changes to official Haunted Happenings events and programs

Salem, Massachusetts – Each year in October the City of Salem – a community of around 40,000 residents – welcomes close to 500,000 visitors who celebrate the Halloween season during the monthlong family-friendly Haunted Happenings festival. The month of October is very important to the local economy, producing thousands of jobs and millions in local sales revenues for Salem’s restaurants, shops, and other businesses each year.

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic still presenting a significant public health and safety threat this year, many of the official events and activities that constitute Haunted Happenings will be either cancelled or scaled back. Most of the events and programs of Haunted Happenings are not City-sponsored activities, however, and are instead, privately organized by local businesses and nonprofits. In all cases – whether an event is an official City-sponsored event or a privately-sponsored one – limitations imposed by the state’s reopening requirements will be in effect. For planning purposes, the City is assuming the state will still be in Phase 3 and not yet in Phase 4. In general, Phase 3 prohibits indoor gatherings of more than 25 people and outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people.

Based on that guidance, while some events and activities may still be able to take place with restrictions, including several attractions, museums, walking tours, retail shops, and restaurants, many large-scale functions will not be able to proceed. Visitors are strongly encouraged to call the event organizer or business in advance to confirm that it is still open and taking place. In some instances, reservations/advance tickets may be required due to limitations on the number of participants or attendees allowed into a site at a time.

At present, the following Haunted Happenings events and programs will not take place this year as they customarily do:

  • Haunted Happenings Grand Parade
  • Mayor’s Night Out
  • Kids’ Costume Parade
  • Lanterns in the Village
  • Biz Baz Street Fair
  • Creative Collective Merchant Marketplace vendors
  • Salem Food Truck Festival
  • Outdoor food vendors, including Fiesta Shows food trucks
  • Great Salem Pumpkin Walk
  • Haunted Harmonies
  • Howl-o-ween pet parade

If you are interested in an event not listed above, contact the event organizer or business to determine whether it has been cancelled, modified, or remains on schedule as planned. Just because a program, event, or activity is not listed above it does not mean that it is necessarily unchanged or still taking place. If you have a ticket to a private event, such as a ball, theater performance, movie, or fair, contact the event organizer to determine what changes will be taking place and whether the event will be proceeding. The City is working to notify event organizers about the state’s reopening requirements for Phase 3, to ensure they are in compliance with those state-mandated standards.

Additional restrictions, based on the state’s reopening requirements, will exist for outdoor retail in the month of October. In general, the only outdoor retail that will be permitted will be for existing Salem businesses and in compliance with the state’s requirements for retail.

Buskers or street performers will also have limitations and must comply with social distancing guidelines and cannot cause groups to congregate in violation of the state requirements.

The City is evaluating the best course of action for Halloween night. Public programming including the concerts, beer garden, and fireworks will not be planned. Public safety, public health, transportation, and parking are the City’s priorities because we know people will still come to Salem on Halloween, just as they will come to Salem during the month of October. Further details on planning and expectations for Halloween night will be forthcoming in the coming weeks.

All events and programs are subject to the Massachusetts Reopening Guidelines, which may be updated based on changing circumstances with the pandemic and the spread the of the virus. Those planning to attend any Haunted Happenings event should expect a different October in Salem from what has been hosted in the past. Additional updates will be posted at www.hauntedhappenings.org.

Salem Haunted Happenings is a unique festival that includes hundreds of individually produced events and programs, as well as Salem’s rich collection of small businesses. The City of Salem has reached out to private event organizers and encouraged them to assess activities and begin the rescheduling, revisioning, or cancelling process now.

“Many people inside and outside of Salem will be disappointed that their favorite, fun and festive October activities cannot take place this year,” said Mayor Kim Driscoll, “However, as a community we are committed to doing our part to help protect residents, visitors, and staff and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Salem. There is no doubt this circumstance will have an impact on the many small businesses – including museums, restaurants, shops, attractions, vendors, service industry staff, and other partners that rely heavily on the increased business that October attracts. We will strive to explore options to provide Haunted Happenings experiences that comply with state guidelines and encourage creatives and entrepreneurs in our community to do the same.”

Given that visitation in October will likely be diminished, there is an opportunity to support and encourage local shopping, eating, and exploring in our community. Through Destination Salem, the City will be launching a marketing campaign beginning in August and running through the fall that encourages locals, visitors within a 50-mile radius, and Massachusetts residents to visit Salem. Neither October nor Halloween can be cancelled, but they will look different this year as we move through the fall season while navigating the coronavirus crisis

Currently, there are no plans to cancel or alter neighborhood trick-or-treating for families.

Those planning to visit Salem in October are still encouraged to utilize public transportation and should be aware that parking in the downtown area has been significantly reduced to accommodate outdoor dining spaces. Travel to Salem via the commuter rail or the Salem Ferry remain the best ways to reach the City.

The City of Salem instituted a mandatory mask requirement throughout the downtown area effective July 18, 2020 and that order, issued by the Board of Health, is expected to remain throughout Halloween. The rule is enforced by both health and police personnel and violations can result in fines of up to $300. In addition, masks are required inside business throughout the City and people should ensure a physical distance from others of at least six feet. Frequent handwashing or hand sanitizing is encouraged and made possible through hand sanitization stations set up throughout the community by the City. Additional public restrooms will be made available as they are every October, but with added cleaning and sanitization; those using these facilities should wash or sanitize their hands after doing so.

Visitors should also be aware of the state’s requirements for travelers from out of state to complete a Massachusetts Travel Form and quarantine for 14 days or produce a negative COVID-19 test result administered within 72 hours of arrival in Massachusetts. The state’s order carries a fine of $500 per day.