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I love Halloween. I start planning next year's Halloween costume on Nov. 1. I love Halloween so much I married my wife on Halloween. Every year, I look forward to getting scared silly by the many haunts, movies, and attractions that open up during the Halloween season. So, as 2020 ticked on and we got closer to October, I worried that Halloween would also fall victim to all the other 2020 cancellations.
Knotts Scary Farm, Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights, and many other local attractions announced that they would sit out this Halloween season due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Even trick-or-treating was canceled, albeit briefly. Late last month, the city of Los Angeles set guiidelines banning the beloved Halloween tradition and other festivities, but the mandate was quickly retracted and, instead, folks were advised to just stay home.
Pretty soon word spread that some local mainstays in the Halloween business would be finding other creative ways to spook the pants off Angelenos. Elaborate lawn displays popped up in various parts of the region, drive-thru haunts became a thing, and drive-in movie theaters saw a resurgence showing horror flicks.
I ventured out with my camera to see what people were doing this Halloween season, and how 2020 had changed how they celebrated this year. This is what I saw.
I met Joan Solorio and Micheal Campos while they were visiting a "Pirates of the Caribbean"-themed Halloween lawn display at the Clybourn Manor with their young niece. They are Halloween lovers and while things have changed in the world, they are doing whatever they can to keep the spirit of season alive.
"We're probably not going to pass out candy. I don't think my niece is going to be going trick-or-treating, but we are definitely trying to do activities like this that we can kind of fill in [the gaps]," said Joan Solorio.
Many families I spoke to shared similar sentiments. Most people said they probably won't be trick-or-treating or handing out candy this year, but trips to these lawn displays were one way to keep the holiday spirit alive.
Jessica Salvador and Ryan Moon, who I met outside Circus of Nightmares in Burbank, said they were dissapointed by the lack of truly scary experiences this year.
"We typically like to do things that you can actually go into. This is really different where you can't actually go into a haunted house," said Salvador. "We did a drive-thru haunted house, and it really wasn't that great. It wasn't as good as Knotts Scary Farm. It kind of doesn't even feel like Halloween. It feels like any other day."
Moon said driving around to look at lawn displays feels more like Christmas than Halloween.
Sherill Watts Justo opened up her home to the neighborhood and helped her son and his friends build and put on an elaborate lawn display. Circus of Nightmares is a circus-themed horrorscape filled with killer clowns, and sponsored by Monster Club Kids, a group for young horror fans. Big crowds gathered and a steady stream or cars drove by to admire their work.
For Justo, putting on this display was about saving Halloween for her son. "When it became apparent that Halloween was going to be canceled, we had to do something, and this is what we did," Said Justo. "I know that these monster kids are coming out of this having the best Halloween ever."
In the end, this might be one of the best Halloweens ever. At the very least, it will have been one of the most innovative. Finding ways to keep the Halloween spirit alive this year required a lot of creativity, and people showed up and showed out. There's a little bit of something for everyone. From spooky eats at The Bite LA and Knotts Berry Farm's Taste of Fall-O-Ween to revamped classics like the L.A.'s haunted hay ride in San Dimas, and even some traditional haunts like The Flesh Yard in Chino Hills.
Not even 2020 can ruin Halloween.
Here are some of my highlights from Halloween 2020: