Trick or treaters line the sidewalks at last year’s Halloween on Main Street in Westbrook. The event has been canceled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. File photo

WESTBROOK — Main Street might well seem like a ghost town this coronavirus-plagued Halloween, but, well, there’s always next year.

The popular Halloween on Main Street event has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but in its absence, sponsor  Westbrook/Gorham Chamber of Commerce hopes businesses will join in a decoration contest to “brighten up downtown,” said Chamber President Suzanne Joyce.

Halloween on Main Street traditionally draws “a thousand or two” people to downtown Westbrook each Oct. 31, Joyce said, but the pandemic and social distancing guidelines prevent that from happening this year.

Greater Portland School of Jukado students Juliana Schools, Noah Fougere and Brady Fougere at the 2019 Halloween on Main Street with school owner Doshu Allan Viernes. File photo

What became a highly attended annual event started back in 1997 when just a few businesses gave out candy to 100 or so trick or treaters, Joyce said. It has since grown exponentially, both in attendance and in contributing businesses beyond Main Street.

The cancellation is disappointing to both families and businesses.

“It is too unfortunate. I’ve been doing Halloween on Main Street every year” since 2012, said Allan Viernes, owner of the Greater Portland School of Jukado, a martial arts program. “It is a good way to give back to the community.”

Joyce said that while the business decorating contest cannot replace the fun of the trick or treating event for the kids, the goal is to make the best of the situation, “recognize the holiday and have some excitement around Halloween.”

The contest will be judged by chamber members Oct. 31. Prizes will be awarded and residents will have a chance to weigh in on the best business decorations for a People’s Choice Award.

Families, meanwhile, will decide on their own whether to go trick or treating in their Westbrook neighborhoods.

“I’m taking my kids out trick or treating this year for sure,” resident Adam Kalenderian told the American Journal. “We will be safe, already wearing masks, hand sanitizer and all that, and obviously only going to houses with lights on.”

He doesn’t want to take away trick or treating from his children, ages 7 and 10, when they “will grow out of it soon. It isn’t fair. Let them have fun and be kids,” he said.

The city asks that trick or treating families abide by safety guidelines prepared by the CDC.

“We’re happy to answer any local questions, but please defer to Maine CDC for the most up-to-date health guidance,” Mayor Mike Foley said this week.

The CDC says that for trick or treating, residents should participate in a “one-way” system, such as leaving goodie bags out to grab. It also advises that typical Halloween masks are not adequate substitutes for face coverings, and it recommends that any Halloween parties be held outdoors.

“A costume mask should not be used unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around the face,” the CDC guidelines say.

CDC guidelines for Halloween can be found on the city’s social media accounts.

The Westbrook/Gorham Chamber of Commerce hopes Halloween on Main Street will be back in full force in October of 2021.

“We are really looking forward to next year now,” Joyce said. “It’s a fun event that the kids love. Parents dress up too, we have music. It is fun watching everyone dance around and going down the street.”

Comments are not available on this story.