UPDATE: Zachary officials have announced that they have moved trick-or-treating times to Friday, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
UPDATE: Iberville Parish and all municipalities inside the parish are the latest to join the growing list of communities moving Halloween trick-or-treating to 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday due to forecasts for severe weather Saturday.
UPDATE: According to the Ascension Sheriff's Office, trick-or-treating within the city limits of Gonzales and Donaldsonville will be on Saturday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The threat of heavy rain and scary weather Saturday had public officials in East Baton Rouge and the surrounding parishes and cities scrambling to decide whether to change the trick-or-treating date to Friday. Citing public safety concerns, most did.
East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden got the ball rolling with an announcement shortly before noon on Wednesday that he was moving the date to Friday. Other parishes and towns soon followed.
“Unfortunately, we have been advised that Saturday evening will not only be a rain event but that there is a strong possibility of thunder and lightning,” Holden said in announcing trick-or-treat hours would be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday.
“I have never changed Halloween hours as mayor-president, and this is not a decision I take lightly,” Holden said. “However, our first priority must always be keeping everyone, especially our children, safe.”
While trick-or-treating is out, organizers of the Halloween parade set for 2 p.m. in downtown Baton Rouge on Saturday say they plan to go forward with that event.
Parents interviewed at the Mall of Louisiana were mostly pleased with the decision to change the date for trick-or-treating to Friday.
Kasie Guedry, whose 4-year-old daughter, Emme, will be out trick-or-treating as Olivia the pig, a character from a children’s book, said she supports changing the date to Friday.
“It rained two years ago; she was so upset,” Guedry said. “I didn’t want her getting sick for preschool. No one has to worry about the rain. It’s probably going to conflict a lot with Baton Rouge traffic. I feel bad for parents who have to work outside of home, trying to get back for 6 p.m.”
Heather Van Gessel, whose 3-year-old son Isaac will be dressing up as Disney’s Robin Hood, said they remembered in years past when trick-or-treating hours were moved up two hours.
“I think 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. is a little early,” Van Gessel said.
Van Gessel and her mother, who were eating lunch with Isaac, said they supported the switch as long as Holden got the word out to the community.
“I think if it’s going to rain, it’s a good idea,” said Mary Jo Taylor, Isaac’s grandmother. “It’s all about the kids’ safety.”
Nearby parishes and towns that have moved trick-or-treating up to Friday, most setting the hours for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., include: the parishes of Ascension, Livingston, West Baton Rouge and St. James, and the cities of Central, Port Allen, Denham Springs, Walker, Hammond and Ponchatoula, and the town of St. Francisville.
Baker will hold its trick-or-treating hours 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday per usual, Baker Police Chief Mike Knaps said, noting that most children in Baker go to indoor festivals at churches to celebrate Halloween.
“If we have more than 100 kids trick or treat door to door, it’ll be a record,” Knaps said, adding that moving trick-or-treating to Friday also would conflict with high school football games.
The cities of Gonzales and Donaldsonville will stick with trick-or-treating hours from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday.
Zachary will hold a council meeting at 2 p.m. Thursday to decide on official trick-or-treating hours, according to the Mayor’s Office there.
The change in Livingston Parish comes despite the parish having a specific ordinance relating to Halloween: “October 31 is hereby recognized as the official date of Halloween and the date that trick or treat, in accordance with tradition, shall be held in the unincorporated areas of the Parish of Livingston.”
The ordinance adds: “Trick or treat hours shall be 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the unincorporated areas of the Parish of Livingston.”
Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks said he had the authority to change the parish’s hours from those set by ordinance because the weather forecast made it a safety issue.
“This is about the safety of our kids because you know they’re going to trick or treat, no matter what,” Ricks said.
Mayors have tweaked hours and even the date for various reasons over the years, mostly to the displeasure of residents, including to accommodate football fans and people who objected to Halloween festivities on the Christian Sabbath.
Mayor Tom Ed McHugh, who held office for three terms starting in 1989, altered Baton Rouge’s trick-or-treating more than once and caught grief for it.
He tackled tough issues ranging from road taxes to a $100 million garbage contract to $450 million in sewer improvements, but he readily admitted changing Halloween trick-or-treating hours was the most divisive issue.
Citing conflict with the Christian Sabbath, as well as LSU and Southern home football games, McHugh decreed in 1993 that trick-or-treating would be Friday, Oct. 29.
But the skies dumped more than 3 inches of rain on Baton Rouge that day, forcing many parents to keep their children home.
McHugh moved trick-or-treating again in 1999, this time up two hours, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., to avoid conflicts with church services that Sunday.
“It’s the most emotional issue I’ve seemingly got involved in,” McHugh said in 1999.
Kelly Criscoe Stein, founder of the 10/31 Consortium, a nonprofit group of Halloween enthusiasts that hosts the annual Halloween parade downtown, said the parade will roll rain or shine at 2 p.m. Saturday.
“Real witches don’t melt,” she said with a laugh.
If there is lightning or unsafe conditions, Stein said, the Baton Rouge Police Department will make the call about whether the parade can go on.
William Daniel, chief administrative officer for Holden, said the decision to change that date for trick-or-treating ultimately came down to public safety.
“The mayor strongly considered public safety,” he said. “When he heard there was going to be lightning, he was concerned about all the little children out there.”
Follow Danielle Maddox Kinchen on Twitter, @Dani_Maddox4.
Editor’s note: This article was changed on Thursday, Oct. 29, to reflect that the cities of Gonzales and Donaldsonville in Ascension Parish plan to hold trick-or-treating from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday.