SALEM — In anticipation of perhaps the largest Halloween celebration in recent decades next year, feedback and planning efforts for 2020 Haunted Happenings are underway.
The city already launched its annual Haunted Happenings residential survey, and it held a public meeting at the Community Life Center on Bridge Street Monday night. The results from the survey and meeting will help the city plan for Halloween next year, which will fall on both a Saturday and on a full moon — a significant event for witches and practicing Pagans.
"A lot of the input received both at meetings with residents, members of the business community and internally, and the survey results help us with planning for next year, things we need to improve upon," Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll said Monday night.
This time, the public meeting featured stations for categories like public safety, traffic and programming, where residents could sit down and speak with public officials.
Derek Thomas, owner of new tour group Salem Sights, suggested making Charter Street one-way during Haunted Happenings, or introducing designated pedestrian or bike lanes for the month in that area to make it safer for tourists and tour groups.
"They're walking along the Grimshawe House to get to the (Charter Street) cemetery, and that sidewalk is two or three feet wide," Thomas said of some groups, adding that the setup forces tourists to walk in the two-way street. "You're going to have a perfect storm of a tourist who doesn't know what they're doing, isn't obeying the law and isn't paying attention while driving."
He levied the same criticism on Essex Street, which also sees heavy foot traffic downtown on either end of the Pedestrian Mall.
He also recalled hearing that tour groups with more than a few dozen people needed to add extra staff, but said he didn't see it enforced.
Mike Abene, owner of TwilightHouse on Essex Street, said he pressed officials to make Salem's Halloween presentation more distinctive to Salem. For example, instead of pop-up food vendors selling fried dough and sausages, booths should be run by Salem restaurants instead.
"We go to a Turkish restaurant all the time for lunch," Abene said. "I think that'd be really cool — a 'taste of Salem' serving food instead of the vendors."
Abene also took aim at some vendor tents selling heavily manufactured items that don't embody what he called "the spirit of Salem."
"There should be more of a presence from the merchants during October, and that's what I'd like to rally," Abene said. "My two cents is, 'how do we make things better?' Me coming here, I wanted to talk to people and say, 'I've got some ideas.'"