SALEM — Official, city-run events tied to Halloween are effectively on hold this year as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to escalate around the country.

In an announcement issued Tuesday afternoon, the mayor's office announced that several of the official, city-run events held in most years have been called off for 2020. This includes the Haunted Happenings grand parade that opens the season, food truck festivals and vendors, the Great Salem Pumpkin Walk, Creative Collective's weekend merchant marketplaces and the Mayor's Night Out.

City officials are expecting the state to remain in the third phase of its reopening plan through the fall. That prohibits indoor gatherings of more than 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. That said, a majority of Haunted Happenings-related events aren't run by the city and, as a result, aren't impacted by the announcement.

"Most of the events and programs of Haunted Happenings are not city-sponsored activities, however, and are instead privately organized by local businesses and nonprofits," the announcement read. "In all cases, whether an event is an official city-sponsored event or a privately sponsored one, limitations imposed by the state's reopening requirements will be in effect."

For the last few decades, Salem has grown from the ashes of urban renewal into a tourism hotspot. The movement started in the 1980s through a handful of organizations and businesses marketing Salem as an October destination. Throughout the 21st century, officials have worked to manage crowds through targeting specific audiences with programming via Haunted Happenings. Forcing family-friendly fare into the mix was credited for effectively ending all gang-related activity and Halloween-night violence that dominated headlines until 2007.

That has become a problem in 2020, where many argue any efforts to market Salem is inappropriate during a global pandemic. The position is often argued as a call for leaders to "cancel Halloween."

It remains unclear what the tourism market will look like for October. Before COVID-19, the month was forecast to be the biggest on record — it hits five weekends, with Halloween landing on not just a Saturday but a blue moon, and that had many expecting crowds to be unparalleled.

Officials are encouraging those planning trips to Salem this fall to reach out to those businesses and organizations to determine whether they're still on.

This story will be updated as new information becomes available.

Contact Salem reporter Dustin Luca at 978-338-2523 or DLuca@salemnews.com. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/dustinluca or on Twitter @DustinLucaSN.

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