Trick-or-treaters along West Main Street this year will be walking in for treats after residents of the neighborhood asked the town board Monday to consider blocking the street to vehicular traffic on Halloween night.
Elkin resident John Kennedy addressed the Elkin Board of Commissioners during its public comments time on behalf of the group of West Main residents. “We’re here to request West Main Street be blocked off to traffic from 6 to 8 p.m. on Halloween night. We have a history of 500 to 700 kids on the street. We love the kids and want them there,” he said.
While the town has been fortunate with that amount of trick-or-treaters to not have had any accidents in the past, Kennedy and his neighbors said they are concerned for the safety of the little ghouls and goblins hopping in and out of parents’ vehicles to get candy, including crossing traffic.
“We’re trying to be proactive and avoid a tragedy. People take their cars and kids and go door to door,” he said.
Kennedy had received 100 percent support from his neighbors in the form of a signed letter asking the town to take action to stop all vehicular traffic on West Main from the bridge over Big Elkin Creek to the Elk Spur Street intersection, with the exception of residents of the neighborhood. Pedestrian traffic in the neighborhood from trick-or-treaters is welcome.
Unlike Kennedy, who has lived in the neighborhood for a lifetime, Carol McDowell said she and her husband have lived on West Main just 18 years. “We’ve enjoyed Halloweens. My husband counts our candy every year and we have 700 kids and usually run out of candy,” she said. “It is chaos with kids running up and down the street.”
The option to just put an officer at each end of the street was mentioned, but McDowell and the other residents felt the road block was needed. “We should have done it decades ago,” she said. “We need to block vehicular traffic to keep it calmer and safer.”
“I want to reiterate, we love Halloween on West Main Street,” said Susan Stewart, another resident of the neighborhood. “It has become a serious public safety issue.”
With 700 trick-or-treaters and parents added to that number, nearly 1,500 to 2,000 people descend on that portion of town in a very short amount of time, she said. “Many are very small children.”
She noted that the town closes streets frequently for events with much smaller crowds. “A policeman at the top and bottom saying, ‘Be careful.’ What else are they going to do? We do that from our porch,” Stewart said. “In the interest of safety, we ask you close to vehicular traffic except those who are residents.”
Elkin Police Chief Monroe Wagoner told the board that closing the street is doable, and he can employ two off-duty officers for the two hours for a cost of $100 along with a blockade. The officers need to be on hand to allow emergency traffic in and out if needed.
Commissioner Jeff Eidson, who heads the Explore Elkin efforts, said that organization can pay the $100 for the officers.
Commissioner Skip Whitman, who is a resident of West Main, encouraged his neighbors to just not need to go out or come in for two hours while trick-or-treating is going on, although some may still be coming in from work during the early time the festivities are gearing up.
The commissioners unanimously voted in favor of closing off the street during the requested time, but chose to make that decision for this year only, as situations and traffic change over time. Whitman said he suspects the limit to vehicle traffic may affect the number of trick-or-treaters from outside Elkin that the neighborhood may see.
Those wishing to trick-or-treat the neighborhood will be encouraged to park downtown or in other areas where parking is allowed and walk in to the houses.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.