News Writing: Local Mayor & Council and Hard Lessons of Halloween Tradition

The following article, headlined “Beachwood Reverses Decision, Declares Trick or Treating on Oct. 30th” when published in September 2015, covered a suddenly intense community debate over the traditional trick or treating date. The issue was so hot that the public outcry, coupled with inquiries made for the write-up, caused a reversal in decision even before the final version was published.

MID-OCEAN COUNTY – A bit of a local controversy flared up this week as Beachwood Mayor Ron Roma and the Berkeley Township governing body announced their decisions to hold trick or treating activities on Saturday, October 31st, the same date as Toms River Fire Company’s Halloween parade.

Beachwood’s decision was later reversed to move it back to October 30th in the face of heated opposition from multiple residents.

Following the initial announcements, Beachwood’s coming first and Berkeley’s only last night, according to Berkeley Patch’s Pat Miller, some parents went to social media site Facebook to state they didn’t see what the big deal was, since kids could trick or treat in the afternoon and then attend the parade at night, as was stated by Mayor Roma in his initial announcement:

“By having trick or treat on Halloween, which is a Saturday this year, it allows time for many more families with small children to participate as families,” he initially stated as part of a message signed with the Beachwood governing body. “Trick or treating can be done all day. People don’t have to rush home from work. It is safer as there will be no rush hour traffic or school buses driving around.”

Reaction by several hundred other current and former residents of Beachwood was swift, with a Facebook group named “Beachwood Trick or Treating on 10/30” created and an online petition formed.

Other surrounding communities, including Toms River, Pine Beach, Ocean Gate and South Toms River, kept in line with a request by the Toms River Vol. Fire Company No. 1 to hold their trick or treating on the night before, October 30th, to allow increased participation and enjoyment of the parade, which until 2012 was annually held on October 31st (or, if a Sunday, the Saturday night before, with trick or treating occurring on the 31st) since at least 1937. Due to Hurricane Sandy, no parade was held in 2012, their 75th, and for the following two years the fire company decided to move the parade to the Saturday before Halloween to try and entice greater participation, which did not work, resulting in this year’s change back to the traditional date.

Mayor Roma’s original repeated statements that holding trick or treating on Saturday afternoon will allow greater safety and family time had been disputed by many within the dedicated Facebook group who wanted to join the other towns and have it on Friday, October 30th, for numerous reasons, including that:

  • Children and families participating in the Halloween parade often must appear well before the parade’s start, preventing them from enjoying Halloween trick or treating in their neighborhood.
  • Sports held during the day Saturday would conflict with trick or treating.
  • Holding trick or treating before the parade puts a time crunch on families wanting to do both and needing to include dinner between the two.
  • Traffic will still occur and be higher than normal for families and groups driving to set up for the parade during the day.
  • Many homes participating in the parade and having to appear earlier in the day will lead to a greater number of homes with nobody home to hand out candy, thus negating the afternoon trick-or-treat.
  • Going against the night before designation conflicts with other schools in the Toms River Regional School District, and students from both Beachwood and Pine Beach who attend Pine Beach Elementary School will be given differing dates for the same activity.
  • It breaks with tradition of the previous eight decades of trick or treating the night before the parade.

Some within the group had brought up the idea to create lawn signs opposing the October 31st date and inform their neighborhood that they would be home to hand out candy the night before only, while others had voiced plans to attend the coming three council meetings on September 16th, October 7th and 21st to oppose the governing body’s decision.

Others said it was a silly thing to argue about and that future years would likely see the normal return to trick or treating on the 30th and the parade on the 31st when both fall on weekdays. One local organization volunteer and leader quipped that they’d wished residents would get as involved in other aspects of local activities and volunteer projects as they appear to be with debating the date of trick-or-treating.

Halloween Parade Chairman Carl Weingroff, with Toms River Vol. Fire Co. No. 1, stated that the fire company does not make any direct statements about trick or treating activities except its initial request. He noted that he had met with Toms River Mayor Thomas Kelaher and he agreed that township would go back to the traditional way of having trick-or-treating the night before the parade.

At noon on Tuesday, September 15th, just two days after the initial announcement resulted in the social media group and petition, Mayor Roma rescinded the town’s earlier decision and stated:

To all Beachwood Residents:

As many of you are aware Halloween trick or treating has become a very popular subject this year in Beachwood and we have received numerous requests to move trick or treat to October 30th to coincide with our surrounding communities and school district.

Although we did not intend to have our decision to keep trick or treating on the 31st offend anyone we apparently did. So, in response to numerous request to have trick or treat on October 30th we have decided to grant that request for this year as well as to formally announce that we will be having trick or treat on October 30th in the future as well to coincide with the Toms River Halloween Parade.

We hope that all of our children and families have a happy and Safe Halloween.

Beachwood Mayor & Council

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