The Town of Sykesville and Downtown Sykesville Connection have agreed to change the date for Halloween on Main Street from Thursday, Oct. 25 to the following Saturday.
At this week’s Mayor and Town Council meeting, Town Manager Aretha Adams said that there were concerns with sending children and families out to a busy street during rush hour, as it is scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m.
“This is a public safety issue, during rush hour on a week day,” she said. “And it’s a public access issue.
“Because of all the road and traffic issues, having the road closed on a week day during rush hour is not a safe idea,” said Adams, “especially for an event catered to children.”
Said Sykesville Mayor Ian Shaw: “In light of concerns highlighted by the [police] chief, for security we are thinking it would be better to follow staff recommendations and try to change this for Saturday. In light of the issues that we are hearing for security, we are very concerned about it.”
One of the issues highlighted by the police department was that large amounts of people showed up an hour early — causing police personnel to scramble to close the road early.
Another concern was that merchants on streets that branch off of Main Street also participated, causing crowds in areas to where traffic was diverted from Main Street, and that road closures then caused backups on Md. 32 at West Friendship Road.
But representatives from the Downtown Sykesville Connection, the group organizing the event, were reluctant to the change and said it was a risky decision to change the event date so close to Halloween.
Della-Maria also said that changing the date from a weekday to a weekend day would make it so that merchants might not be able to interact with trick-or-treaters.
“It’s on a weekday so people can take time to share candies and interact with them,” she said. "On a weekend I don't know how you can expect this, for the people are slammed.
“I agree it’s not a good time for the event,” said Della-Maria, “I just don't think toying with the time now is a good way to handle it. We have offered to not utilize areas that were most likely to be the ones of issues — like the intersection of Oklahoma and Baldwin — to keep it on Main Street. We will do everything we can do.”
The Mayor and Town Council, however, could not be swayed. They received the report from Sykesville Police Chief Michael Spaulding a little more than a week before making their decision and said they could not deny the safety risks the event would pose if held during such a busy time.
Adams also said that if there was any backlash from changing the event, the town would stand by its decision and take responsibility for it — as public safety is on the line.
“We approved this and we rescinded this,” she said.
“It will be a change, and I think there will be some disappointment about it,” said the mayor, “but I think [Halloween on Main Street has] been a little too successful. I think we are getting a lot of people coming from out of town, and [it would be better] if we could do this on the weekend.”
At the meeting to share her opinion that night, was Ridia Dearie, owner of The Vine on Main.
“As shop owners, we’d have to hire someone to be able to [give out candy] if it’s not on a weekday,” Dearie said. “Also the Saturday conflicts with all the families that have Halloween parties and events already going on, so now we are creating a conflict that should make our event less successful.
“This is an event that we have been doing for years,” she said, “and I haven't seen any safety issues. I wasn’t privy to the police report, but I never saw any public safety issues. Most of the people that come by and get candy from me are local people.”
Dearie said through the years she has participated in the event, she always thought it was successful, and now thinks there will be a problem with the merchants’ ability to participate.
Della-Maria confirmed merchants approved of the date change the day after the meeting.
“The merchant community and the DSC pulled together at record speed to make sure we will have the event,” she told the Times Tuesday. “After collecting votes and recruiting the minimum needed volunteers, we will host the event on Saturday the 27th from 5 to 7 p.m.