WATERVILLE — For about 20 years, homeowners on Burleigh Street have hosted a huge Halloween event where the city erects barricades to prevent vehicles from entering most of the street and more than 1,200 children stop at houses to trick or treat.

But this year, that tradition may not occur, or it may be watered down, as many homeowners on the street say they do not think it is safe to have crowds on the street during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’ve spoken with several neighbors on the street who say they’re not participating,” Burleigh Street resident Pam Sennett said Tuesday. “This year, because of COVID, there’s no way there could be any social distancing. The kids come up our stairs in droves and back down. The little ones start at 4 p.m. and then it gets really, really busy from 5:30 p.m. until 8 when most people run out of candy. There can be 10 people on my porch at one time. ”

Sennett, who started the tradition about 20 years ago with then-neighbors Fran Dubord and Abby Bertlesen, said she does not want to compromise her and her family’s health, as well as that of the trick-or-treaters and their parents. She said she contacted Councilor Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, a couple of weeks ago to ask if there was some way the city could either ban the event or provide an alternative.

Aidan Taylor, dressed as a prehistoric sea turtle, emerges from the LeVan home on Burleigh Street in Waterville on Thursday, October 31, 2019. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file photo

A neighbor of Sennett’s also contacted the police department to ask officials not to put barricades up this Halloween.

Contacted Tuesday, Mayhew said he reached out to other councilors a couple of weeks ago when he got Sennett’s email, and at the time, most felt that if families are uncomfortable about taking part in the Halloween activities on Burleigh Street, they should just not take part. They can turn their porch light off, draw the blinds and not answer the door to show they are not participating.

Also contacted Tuesday, City Manager Michael Roy said a decision not to erect barricades is one councilors, not the police department, would have to make. Councilors could discuss the matter at their meeting Tuesday, Oct. 20 he said.

Mayhew, who represents only a small part of Burleigh Street, said he was not aware at the time Sennett sent him an email that several other Burleigh Street residents also do not plan to participate in the event this year.

Mayhew said he would make other councilors, including Councilor Claude Francke, D-Ward 6, who represents most of Burleigh Street, aware of the situation and discuss it with Roy.

Later, Mayhew said Roy will raise the issue during “Manager’s Report” at the end of the council agenda.

“He will ask if barriers we normally put up will be erected again,” Mayhew said. “That question will be asked. He’s pretty much going to look for consensus of the council, as he usually does.”

Sennett, whose husband, Dana, is a former city councilor and mayor, said the Halloween events over the years have been a lot of fun and a lot of work. Homeowners decorate their houses and porches and oftentimes dress up in costumes to greet kids. Homeowners spend upwards of $100 each on candy for the children, she said.

“The reason we started it is because everyone was driving their cars on the street. We were fearful that a child was going to get hurt by a car, because there were so many cars and so many children,” she said. “We wanted to make it a safe place where they could trick or treat.”

She and her friends contacted then-police Chief John Morris about their concern for the children’s safety. They also approached the City Council about the idea of putting up barricades to close Burleigh Street to traffic, and the council voted unanimously to approve the request.

Pam Sennett said she doesn’t feel it is her job to go door-to-door to ask if people are planning to participate this year.

“Some people may choose to, but that’s their choice,” she said.

Burleigh Street runs between Western Avenue and Gilman Street, which runs into Mayflower Hill Drive.

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