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Anoka Halloween will host a "COVID-friendly" version of its annual festival this year, which marks the 100th anniversary the citywide celebration. (File photo by Jonathan Young)

With the specter of a pandemic looming over its 100th anniversary celebration, Anoka Halloween is making changes to keep COVID-19 scares to a minimum.

The volunteer-run nonprofit that puts on the Halloween festivities in the “Halloween capital of the world” had long been planning the 100th anniversary of Anoka’s first organized Halloween celebration, which took place in 1920. When the novel coronavirus outbreak hit earlier this year, organizers weren’t sure if the celebration could take place at all.

Crediting hard work, creativity and dedicated community partners, Anoka Halloween Inc. has announced a “COVID-friendly” schedule.

Although the pared-down festival “definitely looks a lot different than what we’ve had in the past,” Anoka Halloween President Liz McFarland said she’s “proud to say we can make it happen.”

The Grande Day Parade will go forward as a drive-by event at various locations throughout the city Oct. 31. It will be livestreamed by QCTV.

The kids parade (Big Parade of Little People) will likely take place virtually, but the Light Up the Night Parade, which echoes the city’s early Halloween night parades, is canceled.

Other annual traditions being canceled include the bonfire, ambassador coronation, pumpkin weigh-off, past royalty luncheon, wine and beer tasting, and Pumpkin Bowl.

But some events will still take place in person with modifications to adhere to the state’s COVID-19 guidelines, such as the children’s pumpkin carving contest and preschool costume contest, which will require preregistration and masks.

This year medallion hunt clues will be released via the Anoka Halloween Facebook page starting Oct. 21.

New this year is a citywide event that echoes Anoka’s first Halloween celebration 100 years ago: At 7:30 p.m. on Halloween, bells, horns and sirens will sound, and everyone is invited to step outside to listen or add their own noise.

“It just makes me tingly happy all over that we can bring back a tradition that we have not done for maybe 100 years,” said Karen George, an Anoka Halloween board member and past president. She said credit for the plan goes to John Jost, compiler of Anoka Halloween’s 100th anniversary book, which is on presale now.

Some of this year’s events will be virtual, including the Orange Tie Gala.

The Anoka Halloween store will be open both online and in person.

George called this year’s festival a unique effort.

“It took some time and creative thinking,” she said, but she believes the organization was been able to plan events that “fulfill the spirit of Anoka being the Halloween capital of the world.”

Because of the drastic changes required, many details are still being worked out, but organizers wanted to get the word out that Anoka Halloween isn’t canceled.

“We wanted people to know they had something to look forward to in Anoka,” George said.

Updated information on events will be posted online at

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