By JOHN RABY, Associated Press
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) _ When Halloween falls on a Friday in communities where high school football is king, it’s time to reschedule the holiday.
Communities from West Virginia to Texas are saying they’re OK with celebrating Halloween on, well, not Halloween. Football is king in many rural areas, especially in the South, and that’s a big reason. But everything from homecoming events to Bible studies can push trick-or-treat night to dates other than Oct. 31.
In West Virginia, more than 50 high school football games are scheduled for Oct. 31. Rather than move the games, many communities moved Halloween. In Berkeley County in the far eastern part of the state, trick-or-treating will occur Nov. 1 because three local teams _ Hedgesville, Martinsburg and Spring Mills _ have home games the previous night.
Martinsburg city manager Mark Baldwin said police already committed to staffing football games didn’t want to be stretched thin by watching out for trick-or-treaters on the same night.
“It’s one of those things where you don’t win,” Baldwin said. “If we held it on Oct. 31, people would have said, `You’ve got all of Berkeley County attending football games and not being home.”’
The problem? Martinsburg and Hedgesville are having their high school homecoming dances on Nov. 1. That means potentially having hundreds of students driving to dinner and the dance.
“That’s one of my concerns, texting and driving,” said Iris Benn-Miller of Martinsburg.
Benn-Miller also has to figure out how to drop her high school-age son and his girlfriend off at the dance and still take her grandchildren trick-or-treating. She said she probably won’t be home to pass out candy.
It’s less of a logistical problem for Katelyn Conaway of Martinsburg, who has two young children. But she said the thought of having Halloween in November is “kind of weird.”
“October is considered for Halloween. November is for Thanksgiving. October and Halloween are synonymous,” she said.
In Lorain County, Ohio, west of Cleveland, a group that coordinates countywide issues recommended that Halloween be moved to Oct. 30 to avoid Friday night football traffic.
“You’ve got that increased traffic at the same time you’ve got children and pedestrians walking around in the dark,” said Virginia Haynes, administrative coordinator of the Lorain County Community Alliance. “The safety of the kids comes first.”
At least one town in Texas, the standard-bearer for Friday night football, is changing plans. Trick-or-treaters will head out on Oct. 30 in Decatur, about 60 miles northwest of Dallas, to make room for the Decatur High School Eagles’ last home game on Halloween.
Elsewhere, the holiday isn’t budging. The undefeated football team in Allen, Texas, is playing all of its games on the road this season because repairs are being done to its $60 million stadium.
So football fans with kids have a quandary: take them door-to-door, take the short drive to see Allen play at Plano West _ or perhaps take the kids trick-or-treating in Plano before the game.
Football was the reason trick-or-treating in Vineland, N.J., was restored to Oct. 31. Mayor Ruben Bermudez had initially moved it to Oct. 25, but that was the date of the local high school’s homecoming game and parade. It got moved back after residents complained.
Moving Halloween is common in the South, where many communities avoid having trick-or-treating conflict with Sunday church services or Wednesday night Bible study.
Some kids will get their candy early for reasons other than football.
West Virginia’s capital city of Charleston avoids scheduling trick-or-treat times late in the week to cut down on potential hooliganism, said Rod Blackstone, special assistant to Mayor Danny Jones. This year the date is Oct. 30.
Halloween will be celebrated door-to-door Oct. 25 in Round Lake, Illinois, and Haverhill, Massachusetts. Haverhill’s trick-or-treat date is set by ordinance for the last Saturday of October.
Some love the weekend witching so they don’t have to rush home from work and still find time to help the kids finish their homework. Opponents worry that opportunists from nearby towns will come to Haverhill to double-dip on chocolate and other goodies.
“I get more emails and phone calls about this issue than anything else,” Mayor James J. Fiorentini said. “This is my 11th year. This is the thing I get complaints about. It’s controversial. By and large this community is divided.”