HINSDALE, N.H. — During its Sept. 21 meeting, the Hinsdale Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to cancel door-to-door trick or treating this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response, the town's parks and recreation department and its beautification committee are lining up a slew of activities including an "outdoor spooky movie" on Oct. 24, a Halloween home decorating contest, a scavenger contest, scarecrow decorating and a trunk or treat on Halloween at Heritage Park. People who would like to participate in the trunk or treat need to fill out an application. More information can be found at the town's website.
Meghan Kondrat, who raised the issue during the meeting, told the Reformer Friday that she wanted to get the word out early so people can be prepared.
"It just seemed like an obvious decision to us," Kondrat said. "It doesn't seem like a good idea to have hundreds of kids running around town and putting their hands in the same bucket."
The decision was reached after speaking with Hinsdale Police Chief Charles Rataj, who recommended canceling door-to-door trick or treating.
"Hinsdale is a responsible community that generally looks out for the good of the group as a whole," wrote Rataj in a Facebook post after people complained about the decision. But, noted Rataj, a "public" trick or treat event "could include a large number of children from outside communities that closed their own trick or treat events."
"It made more sense to reach a decision early, as opposed to waiting until the last minute and then not have the time to come up with a suitable event for the kids," wrote Rataj. "It was also obvious that the sizable number of kids from potentially closed communities would be larger than prudent."
Kondrat said she was surprised by some of the negative responses to the decision.
"I was not na ve when I ran for the job as a board member," she said. "But one of the hardest parts is having your critics also be your neighbors. We don't always need to agree, but we should respect each other."
She also noted if people decide to let their kids go door to door or if people decide to offer candy, there are no legal repercussions.
"We're not taking anyone's rights away," she said. "We just don't feel we should be encouraging it."
Kondrat said the fact Hinsdale has no current COVID cases is because people have been taking precautions and thinking about how their behavior might affect others. She said now is not the time for town residents to let their guard down.
"We are in a pandemic," she posted on Facebook. "You elected us to represent your best interest, please trust us to do so. Anyone is welcome to come and voice their concern, but this was not a matter that required a public hearing. It is my opinion that we as a town come together in an alternative way to celebrate for the children. Thank you, and please be safe."
Rataj, in his own posting, noted a decision needed to be made to keep everyone safe in Hinsdale, even if it was an unpopular decision.
"This is not a communist country, it's America," he wrote. "The police are not going to come to your house if you have your light on and hand out candy. Go ahead and plan something among family, friends and neighbors to bring your kids around and trick or treat. Your right to do whatever you want with your house, your land and your family is respected. Just remember as you're doing what you want to do, respect other people's wishes as well. ... If you want to trick or treat on your own, go ahead just plan ahead where you are going and who you're visiting. You may be passionate about wanting to give kids the same enjoyment trick or treating you had, but there are other people that are equally concerned about getting sick that are equally passionate about being left alone."
In her own post, Kondrat addressed some of the issues raised by people opposed to the board's decision.
"Yes, the kids attend school, where they are confined to the students in their class," she wrote. "There are one-way halls, masks are required, they do not play on the playground, and they are monitored before entering. Yes, you go to Walmart, where random people are not placing items in your basket, they limit the number of shoppers, masks are required and again you have one-way aisles. Yes, the farmer's market is open, where masks are required, distancing is enforced and a small portion of our town's population actually attends."
Kondrat told the Reformer she was disappointed to read some of the comments, but added she believes the right decision was made, and she stands by that decision.
Bob Audette can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.