This story originally appeared in the October 2020 issue of inRegister.
The month of October usually marks the beginning of the holiday season, a time of increased partying, decoration-making and preparing to welcome hordes of costumed kiddos journeying in search of the proverbial full-size candy bar. And while there’s never been a better time to slap on a mask before venturing outdoors, this year’s Halloween will certainly look a bit different than usual, with many local celebrations suspended until 2021.
Many, but not all.
10/31 Consortium, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to building stronger communities via the traditions of Halloween, has dominated the spooky scene in Baton Rouge since its founding in 2010. Now, during what would be the organization’s 10th anniversary, its board members have already banded together to raise funds for Hurricane Laura victims in southwest Louisiana, and have also conjured three new, COVID-compliant ways to celebrate Halloween while supporting locals in need.
“Like many organizations, we were waiting it out as long as we could and hoping for the best,” says Corey Tullier, co-founder and president. “Once we understood that we wouldn’t be entering phase three by August, we realized that we needed a more creative way to save Halloween.”
Naturally, a charity-slash-parade-krewe dedicated to the whimsy of Halloween leapt at the chance to recreate their annual festivities like the family-friendly Halloween Parade, the introductory Black and Orange Bash, and the over-the-top Ghostly Gala, this time weighing out several new options via lengthy exchanges over email and text.
“Eventually we were able to come up with three events that we feel meet the criteria of COVID-19 precautions and keep the community safe,” says Tullier.
The first, a 5K fun run, invites revelers to jog, bike, skate or hop on whatever broomstick your neighborhood witch approves (in costume, of course) for a chance to win an assortment of prizes and increase those dopamine levels that seem to be lacking these days. The second, the Fifolet Cabaret, takes the form of a virtual dinner-and-a-show that will run from October 29 to 31, and encourages local musicians and performers to record and submit their acts to be viewed free of charge. But a paid ticket does come with some extra fun. Kids at home won’t want to miss the costumed characters dropping off a meal provided in partnership with a local Baton Rouge restaurant. Last, on All Hallows’ Eve is the socially distant Fifolet Flip Flop, a “parade in reverse” that summons children dressed in costume to load up in their parents’ cars, head to the parking lot adjacent to Gerry Lane Buick GMC on Florida Boulevard, and cruise into a drive-thru of Halloween decorations, inflatables and spooky characters, with the first 500 children receiving a free treat bag and face mask at the end.
Not a bad lineup for a year thwarted by the ebbs and flows of novel coronavirus. Then again, the Consortium has been open to evolution since its early days.
“The Consortium originally started out as a simple way to put on our yearly Halloween parade,” says co-founder and communications coordinator Kelley Stein. “But we also wanted it to be something more. When we realized how much Halloween had the potential to bring communities together, everything else started falling into place.”
Even the simple tradition of trick-or-treating, says Stein, can do much to bolster the community spirit of a neighborhood. In a typical year, the Consortium would already have begun its annual candy and costume drives, collecting items for families who otherwise might not have the resources to participate in trick-or-treating activities, or who live in neighborhoods unsuited to walking around at night.
“Crime comes to mind, but also houses being far apart, or streets with no sidewalks, poor lighting or too much traffic,” says Stein. “Part of what we do is help neighborhoods address those issues and see how they can keep this event in their community while building camaraderie and a sense of togetherness.”
In these socially distant times, the ability to lend a helping hand has never been more appreciated. “Even though we can’t run our usual charity drives this year,” says Tullier, “we’re always happy to take on volunteers, whether that’s from people with ideas for parade tents, people who want to donate candy for treat bags, or people with canned food donations. We would love for people to participate however they can.”
To join the #MASKerade and learn about volunteer opportunities, participation guidelines, ticket pricing and more, visit 1031consortium.com.