Creating a Memorable Covid Halloween
In early October, when Ashley Hope started hanging her usual Halloween decorations, she fell into a funk. It hit her that Halloween, her kids’ favorite holiday, just wasn’t going to be the same in 2020. Neither were Hanukkah and Christmas.
“I began thinking, if Halloween is cancelled, my kids’ psychology heading into the pandemic holiday season will be starting at a really low point,” says Hope. “I knew I couldn’t save Hanukkah and Christmas - not really. I couldn’t produce the thing that makes those holidays the best time of the year, my family, all in the Northeast, coming to stay with us for weeks, or travelling to them to have a snowy Christmas. Of all the holidays, Halloween seemed the most savable.”
So Hope, an artist and professor at Houston Community College, sat down in her home art studio in Westbury and started to brainstorm how she could make the holiday special, while staying safe. Online, she saw people across the country affixing white, PVC pipes to handrails in front of their homes to deliver candy to trick-or-treaters at a distance.
Hope wanted to go bigger. “We take our holiday decorations and the mood of Halloween very seriously,” she says. In a typical year, Hope and her husband, Josh Weisberg, set up a light display that projects spooky images on their house and blast creepy music from the roof.
As the days ticked by, Hope and Weisberg went back and forth with ideas on how to enhance the candy chute idea. “We thought, how can we make this pandemic Halloween better than the non-pandemic Halloween? We came up with the idea of a giant snake chute surrounded by fire,” Hope says. It would be a basilisk, the giant serpent from the Harry Potter books.
One of them would climb onto the roof and send candy down the chute to trick-or-treaters who would stick their hand inside the snake’s mouth to get the treat. The other would linger near the snake’s mouth, ensuring order and social distancing as kids waited their turn, and would clean the snake’s mouth with a Clorox wipe after each visit. Hope thought, “We can do this - we can have a fun and safe Halloween.”
In the evenings after virtual schooling and work, Hope slipped into her studio to create the Basilisk Candy Chute. She connected 16 feet of PVC pipe, covered it with chicken wire, and also created a snake head from chicken wire. Then, she put plaster cloth on top, used jumbo marbles for the eyes, and painted the snake with green, pink and white house paint. String lights placed inside the head illuminate the eyes.
It took 30 hours to make the basilisk over the course of two weeks. In the end, creating the snake was cathartic, Hope says. “It was like my charge against the pandemic,” she says, “the physical manifestation of my will to keep things together, to make the best out of the situation we find ourselves in.”
On Halloween, the basilisk delivered candy to neighborhood children in the Westbury neighborhood from dusk to around 9 p.m. “My goal,” Hope says, “was that my kids will remember the pandemic holiday season by saying, ‘Remember that crazy snake Mom built to shoot candy at the trick-or-treaters? That was awesome.”
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