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Pa. and N.J. towns moved trick-or-treating due to rain, and the outrage machine is coming for them

“They can get wet,” one mom said of her three kids trick-or-treating. “I’m all for kids jumping through puddles.”

The Bova family hands out candy to costumed kids in Hammonton the night before Halloween. Town officials moved trick or treat because of Thursday's weather forecast.
The Bova family hands out candy to costumed kids in Hammonton the night before Halloween. Town officials moved trick or treat because of Thursday's weather forecast.Read moreSTEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer

Back in Pete Scirrotto’s day, no one canceled or postponed trick-or-treating for weather. Rain in the forecast? Bring an umbrella.

But now, the 66-year-old is the mayor of Mantua Township, and responsible for the safety and well-being of 15,000 residents, some of whom are angry that the township is postponing trick-or-treating until Friday. Forecasters are predicting rain, potential thunderstorms, and heavy winds for Thursday.

The township expected a little vitriol. In a Facebook post announcing the switch, local officials wrote: “We ask that you do NOT post derogatory or negative comments on this page.” That effort was a little futile.

It’s not just the Gloucester County township. Officials across the region are taking heat from constituents who are either begging them to move trick-or-treating a day to keep their children safe from the elements, or telling them to stop coddling kids and make them suck it up. The flames of outrage are, per usual, fanned in Facebook groups, filled with parents arguing whether this is just another example of overprotective parenting being taken to the extreme.

For Scirrotto, it’s more about falling branches or cars running through intersections. While it’s now easier to get the word out about schedule changes because of social media and robocalling, “I’ve been getting a little hammered,” the mayor said of how residents are responding.

The most recent forecast for Thursday — when most of the city of Philadelphia will trick-or-treat — appeared soggy. But the weather service said it was possible that the precipitation could halt between 4 and 9 p.m., peak trick-or-treating hours. There could even be springlike temperatures.

Still, forecasts can change. What’s constant is dissent. And confusion.

“I’m seeing more people saying, don’t cancel it. Growing up, we never did,” said Kristin Lang, a 45-year-old mother from Drexel Hill. The Delaware County community hadn’t changed its plans for trick-or-treating to take place Thursday, but Lang spent time talking with other parents about calls for a postponement. “I remember it raining growing up, and we made the best of it. We had more fun.”

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Part of the problem is that parents are confused about where to turn — plenty of places have trick-or-treating on a night other than Oct. 31. Unlike religious or government holidays, nobody really decides when trick-or-treat night is.

Which is just another way of saying everybody decides when trick-or-treat night is.

Some tiny neighborhood homeowner associations in the Philadelphia suburbs either moved the festivities to Wednesday or postponed them to Friday, getting the word out via fliers stuffed under front doors. Municipalities like West Chester and Hammonton, N.J., moved trick-or-treat night to Friday, effective across the whole town. Sometimes it’s school districts that have the best ability to get the word out. And then there was that time in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy left New Jersey ravaged and Gov. Chris Christie issued an executive order postponing trick-or-treat night across the whole state.

Other municipalities are sending out messages on social media telling folks to be safe, but saying that when it comes to changing trick-or-treat night, they can’t help them. “Trick-or-treating is solely at the discretion of parents or guardians,” Lower Merion Township officials wrote on Facebook.

This was an issue over the years in Spring Township, Berks County. Township Manager Jay Vaughan said that for years, parents were contacting the township as early as September to find out when trick-or-treat night would be, even though it wasn’t set by the township. So the township board started taking it upon itself to offer guidance and set it for Oct. 31.

But on Tuesday, Vaughan and the board decided to move this year’s trick-or-treating from Thursday to Wednesday because of the weather. So far, he hasn’t heard much in the way of complaints. But you can’t make everybody happy, he said, “because you can never do that.”

That’s been the case in communities across the region. Moving trick-or-treating is easier said than done. Some in law enforcement don’t want it to take place on the weekend, which is already their busiest time. Fridays are for high school football in many communities, and moving it earlier as opposed to later carries its own risks. What if people aren’t informed in time? Would there be a bunch of costumed children knocking on doors, to no avail?

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Amanda Thomas, 37, a mother of three who lives in Paoli, said she understands why some communities are making the switch, but said it wreaks too much havoc. Her community postponed trick-or-treating several years ago when it snowed a bit and she was left with “700 pounds of candy because they trick-or-treated on eight different days.”

She’ll be out Thursday with her two 7-year-olds and her 11-year-old, rain or shine. “They can get wet,” she said. “I’m all for kids jumping through puddles.”

Sara Jena, who lives in Buena Vista Township, N.J., said rain delays for trick-or-treating are “absolute garbage.” She’s a self-described “Halloween enthusiast” who’s spending her first Halloween in the area. She made plans to have friends over Thursday to hand out sugary treats to neighborhood kids, but Buena Vista announced it was postponing trick-or-treating a day, when Jena will be out of town.

Back in her day, Jena went in the rain. Jena is 22.

“There goes my Halloween,” she said, “all because of a little rain.”

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