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Gathering of the Jack O'Lanterns canceled

October 22, 2020
LITTLETON — Town officials, business owners and event organizers became wary last week as Grafton County experienced a significant spike in COVID-positive cases. The Gathering of the Jack O'Lanterns, one of Littleton's most-anticipated annual events, was canceled in response to the increasing numbers.

Likewise, local business owners indicated that the annual Littleton Main Street trick or treating activities have also been halted this year.

Founded by Littleton Bike and Fitness owner Dave Harkless in 2011, the three-day celebration draws thousands of attendees to downtown Littleton. Up until last year, the event was co-sponsored by the Littleton Regional Chamber of Commerce.

This year, event organizers worked with town officials and the Littleton Rotary Club to develop a safe, socially-distanced event. Harkless said the original plan included masks, sanitizing stations and a one-way flow of traffic.

"If you think about the events that have happened recently like the farmers market and the recent concert at Riverside Park, they have been very successful this year. But at any point in time, there were maybe a hundred people there. Our event generally garners over 2,000 people and the last thing we wanted was to have it turn into a super-spreader event," stated Harkless.

The inability to enforce mask-wearing at such a large scale was but one factor that led to the event cancellation.

"I had a lot of plans in place. If we didn't have an uptick of cases, I was pretty confident that we would be able to put on this event. Insurance, volunteerism, uneasiness and the uptick all together led to the decision," added the event founder.

According to a statement issued jointly by Harkless and Rotarian President Chrissy Smith late last week, the Gathering of the Jack O'Lanterns would switch to a virtual event this year. Residents were invited to post photos of their carved pumpkins on the event's Facebook page and include the hashtag #gatheringofthejackolanterns.

"Due to the current state of the pandemic, and our optimistic thoughts to work to move forward to plan a safe event with extensive safety protocols in place, we have come to realize that given the current state of the pandemic in our region, we can not safely move forward with a large in-person, public event that is the Gathering of Jack O'Lanterns on Oct. 24. We hope when we can return to large, in-person events in the future," stated Smith.

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