HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C. (WNCN) – Halloween in Holly Springs is getting national attention for its suggested trick or treat guidelines.
It’s an annual tradition for the town council to pass a resolution for a safe night of spooky fun. The Wall Street Journal and several blogs picked up on the single page of paperwork approved at the most recent council meeting. It includes a request that trick-or-treating should be restricted to children under the age of 13.
Mayor Dick Sears said this is not an actual rule.
“It’s just a suggestion. Not a law. Not even enforceable. Didn’t want it to be. Never has been. It’s been there for at least since 2004, probably even goes back before that,” Sears said.
He doesn’t know who first came up with the town’s guidelines, but this year he came under a firestorm from Facebook following a post by Dr. Adrian Wood. She writes the popular blog Tales of an Educated Debutante.
Wood lives in Edenton, a couple of hours from Holly Springs and she said Halloween should be an inclusive event with opportunities for older children to participate. The mother of four, whose oldest is about to turn 12, said teens are still kids. Wood also criticized another Holly Springs guideline which suggests children trick-or-treat in their own neighborhoods, visiting only familiar homes.
Sears identifies this as a safety issue. He said by staying in their own neighborhoods, children and their parents are more likely to know the people whose homes they visit. Sears said this suggestion is not due to any disputes with neighboring communities or towns, which is how some social media posts depicted the issue. Several accounts including the Fuquay-Varina Police Department shared memes encouraging people of all ages to visit them for a trick or treat event.
Sears said this is not about keeping out kids from Fuquay-Varina or Apex. He plans to give out candy for Halloween, and he won’t be asking from where the kids came
“If someone comes from Fuquay, come on down,” he said.
Parents in homes near town hall had mixed responses to the Halloween resolution. Some said they were not sure why high schoolers would want to trick or treat and that it’s better left to younger kids. Others said there’s nothing wrong with teens trick-or-treating and any issues can likely be addressed by adults.
“I feel like there’s enough parents and people handing out candy to kind of regulate that,” Nadia Benjaminson said. “I think that parents should actually encourage the older kids to kind of get out there and keep the tradition going instead of getting into worse things.”
Judy Dillman said the town’s guidelines are just ideas, not rules, and that it’s good to have some parameters in place if things go wrong. She said her 10-year-old son Tommy is eager to trick or treat. He got help decorating the house from his 23-year-old cousin, and his grandfather will dress up to spook children who stop by for candy. Dillman said she thinks kids should want to trick or treat in their own neighborhood.
She has her own personal guideline about handing out candy to older kids.
“I have no problem with high school kids trick-or-treating, if they’re in costume. I have a problem with kids that just come up to the door and they didn’t dress, but if you’re in costume and having fun, I have no problem with that,” Dillman said.
The guidelines request that 13- to 19-year-olds who choose to trick or treat avoid wearing masks. Mayor Sears said there were some complains from homeowners who had tall masked teens knocking on their doors late at night.
“If someone, let’s say came in and is 6’2 in front of my house tomorrow night and had a mask on, nothing happens,” he said.
The mayor also questioned the timing of this issue and the attention received online.
“It’s interesting that it comes close to our election time, so I’ll let your viewers decide on whether that’s political or not,” Sears said.
Mayoral candidate Sean Mayefskie, the challenger in the November 7 municipal election, provided a written statement in response:
“When I decided to run for Mayor, I never thought a week before the election I would be discussing trick-or-treating. I decided to run for Mayor in hopes of building a better future for Holly Springs. I am running on a platform that puts citizens first, encourages small business to grow or move to Holly Springs, and work to establish stronger relationships with surrounding towns,” Mayefskie said.
“As far as the topic of Halloween, I hope everyone enjoys their Halloween, however and wherever they choose to celebrate. “
Read the Holly Springs resolution urging a safe Halloween here.
A post earlier this month on msn.com named Holly Springs the best town in North Carolina for people to trick or treat. The msn.com post acknowledges the town’s recommended hours and ages as well as mask request.