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Neighborhood celebrates COVID-19-safe Halloween with block party

Nobody went door-to-door trick-or-treating. Instead, kids took candy from dozens of bowls laid out around the neighborhood.

ROUND ROCK, Texas — For the second consecutive year, the Casa Blanca Cove neighborhood had a wrench thrown in the wheel of Halloween plans.

People who live on the block say their houses are usually the ones with big candy and lots of trick-or-treaters. Last year, cold weather got in the way, so the neighbors threw a Halloween party the next day to get rid of all their candy. This year, coronavirus took away the typical Halloween, so those neighbors started planning for a virus-safe block party instead.

Instead of kids and parents visiting each door, trick-or-treaters picked a piece of candy or two from bowls at the end of each driveway. In some cases, those bowls were placed in the front yards of homes near the Halloween decorations. It provided the perfect setup to spook unsuspecting visitors with mechanical hands, spiders and clowns.

Kids at the block party didn't mind the changes to Halloween this year.

"It's better for me because I don't usually walk up to the houses," Giovanni Castro, a trick-or-treater donning a Black Panther outfit, said. "I just wait because ... I can't walk that far."

Castro has spina bifida, preventing him from walking long stretches; so while he enjoys Halloween, it can be a difficult holiday for him. The changes in the Casa Blanca neighborhood this year allowed \him to walk a little bit less. Other changes, such as a hand sanitizer station at the entrance of the cul-de-sac and mask enforcement, helped other kids and parents feel safe.

"It's a way to be adaptive and allow everyone to still get out and enjoy the holiday," Tremaine Pritchett said. "It's a lot better than the alternative to be locked up in your home and deny Halloween for your child. They're only going to get so many where they matter."

The Pritchett family lives in Round Rock, but on the other side of town. They heard about the block party on social media, vetted it to make sure it was safe, and came out to trick-or-treat. Nearby neighbors also heard about it on social media and wanted to help their kids celebrate the holiday safely.

"They have hand sanitizer everywhere and people have the option to spread out," Jolynn Bratton, a nurse who lives a few blocks away, said. "They have signs with only three people at a time, which is great. The kids get to be outside."

The signs are for the entrances to two bouncy castles. The neighborhood brought in two of them and restricted occupancy to only three people at a time. Every so often, one of the organizers would go in to wipe down the inflatable house so it would remain as clean as possible.

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