A new event will replace the city’s longstanding Halloween on Main Street, shelved for at least this year.

Members of the Westbrook/Gorham Community Chamber, the organizers of Halloween on Main Street, said the Bridge Street bridge construction and associated traffic complicated the annual event, which normally brings thousands into the downtown.

Since the late 1990s, a portion of Main Street has been closed on the Friday afternoon prior to Halloween, allowing children and parents to walk the street, trick-or-treat at downtown businesses and participate in other activities and games.

A jack-o-lantern party, organized by the Westbrook Community Center, will take place on Friday, Oct. 30, at 6:30 p.m., in Riverbank Park, thus avoiding the Main Street closure.

While the public enjoyed Halloween on Main Street, it had become a point of contention with many downtown business owners, and even chamber members. Last September, the chamber announced that last year’s Halloween event would be the last organized by the group, and that it was seeking another community organization to take it over.

However, Suzanne Joyce, a longtime chamber member, said this week that after the success of last year’s event, which attracted more people than ever, the group decided to keep the event. Joyce said the construction and traffic detours are the only reason the event isn’t taking place this year.

“On a Friday, 4:30 to 6, it would be a traffic nightmare,” she said, referring to the closed Bridge Street spur. She said four years ago, during construction on William Clarke Drive, the event was also canceled.

“Our full intention is to bring it back next year,” she said. “No one has said that we’re going to get rid of it.”

Joyce said bringing an event to Riverbank Park is a “great idea” that could possibly be expanded on next year along with Halloween on Main Street.

Many have argued that Halloween on Main Street doesn’t provide an economic benefit for downtown businesses, instead forcing businesses to buy large amounts of candy and lose regular business due to the closure of Main Street.

James Tranchemontange, who owns the Frog & Turtle restaurant downtown, said Halloween on Main Street has often split the chamber members on its impact to business. He said that for businesses like Portland Pie or Profenno’s, the event is a hit, with many families staying downtown for dinner, but, he said, many businesses also simply leave for the day.

Heading into this year, he said, officials from Westbrook Public Services and Westbrook Public Safety asked the chamber to consider not hosting the event due to the construction.

He believes Westbrook organizations need to work better together to promote community events.

“You have the chamber, the downtown coalition and the community center, and no one is really working together,” he said.

Maria Dorn, the director of community services in Westbrook, is hoping the event in Riverbank Park can attract the same family-friendly crowds that come to Halloween on Main Street.

Dorn said community services has been hosting Halloween-themed events at the community center for the past few years, but has been trying to find “the right fit.”

The event in the park, which she called “Pumpkins in the Park,” is described as a jack-o-lantern walk, where families will walk lit pumpkins through the park to the American Legion Hall on Dunn Street.

There will be a pumpkin-carving contest, bonfire, a DJ, candy apples, and food offered by the American Legion. Dorn said the Westbrook Kiwanis will also be involved. She hopes the Westbrook Performing Arts Center will also be screening a “family-friendly” movie that night at 8:30.

She said the jack-o-lantern walk is modeled after similar events elsewhere that have been popular.

“We started looking into it and thought, people love Riverbank and it’s a Friday night,” she said. “If it goes well, it will be annual.”


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