Bloomington, Indiana – Many Bloomington residents are still getting spooky this year, but safely.

City officials don’t encourage trick-or-treating and won’t set hours for it like in years past, city spokesperson Yaël Ksander said. But Monroe County commissioners set trick-or-treating hours as 6-8 p.m. Halloween night throughout the county. The city’s 15-person limit at private gatherings, inside or outside, still stands.

It’s sad to not have traditional celebrations, Ksander said, and many people probably have caution fatigue, but the holiday season is the time to be extra vigilant.

“It’s really important that especially as we come up on this holiday season, whether it’s Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, that we just continue to observe the same kinds of limitations and safety measures that we have so far,” she said.

The county and city recommend people follow holiday-specific guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC advises everyone wear a mask, stay 6 feet apart from anyone they don’t live with and wash their hands regularly. A costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask, according to the guidelines. Those handing out treats should avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters, such as by setting up a station with individually bagged treats for kids to take.

The CDC suggests safe Halloween activities such as carving pumpkins with members of the household, walking the neighborhood to admire decorations and having an outdoor costume parade.

Bloomington resident Andrea Smart, 39, said she started preparing for a pandemic-conscious Halloween in July. She transformed her backyard into a trail for the kids to walk through and discover plastic toys and candy.

“My favorite part of Halloween was coming home and just seeing all the random stuff we got, even if it was garbage,” Smart said. “I want to do that for my kids and their friends.”

Smart is inviting about 25 kids and their families to walk through their backyard, but she said she doesn’t expect more than about two families to be there at one time and doesn’t expect them to stay for long. She said everyone invited has been taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously and following safety guidelines.

“We’re requiring masks, we’ll have hand sanitizer at the beginning, middle and end of the trail, and I asked people not to come if they’re sick,” Smart said. “I trust everyone invited.”

Smart said her 5- and 7-year-old kids are disappointed to not go trick-or-treating, but they understand and they’re excited for their unconventional Halloween party.

“You’ve got to be quirky during this time, what else do you have to do?” said Smart, who will be dressed as a plague doctor for Halloween.

Bloomington resident J.C. Hardy, 25, decorated his home to look like an old, decrepit house. The windows are boarded up, and there’s a rickety fence around the yard and a rusted gate by the driveway. He estimates that 300 people usually come by every Halloween night to look at the house, located at 4890 N. Briar Gate Drive.

Hardy started prepping in early March, and the pandemic didn’t stop him from putting up the lights and props.

“I think people need Halloween this year,” Hardy said. “I think what this pandemic has taught us is that you really have to enjoy the smaller things, simpler things in life.”

He said he and his family have been decorating their house for the past 20 years, and the decorations have become more extravagant.

“It kind of has turned into a little production,” Hardy said. “It’s my way of expressing myself.”