While the annual Halloween event in Westhampton Beach never brought business owners much in the way of revenue, it was a long-held tradition that made kids smile. That's why many Main Street shop owners were disheartened to learn that the event, which is sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and PTA, has been moved to the Westhampton Beach Elementary School grounds this year.
"I am mad about it — it is outrageous," said Simon Jorna, owner of the Beach Bakery. "This has been a wonderful event. Please bring it back to Main Street!"
Lynne Jones, owner of Lynne's Cards and Gifts, who has dressed up for the past ten years to hand out candy in front of her store, had similar sentiments: "It is really sad," she said. "I thought it was a win/win event for the village. I don't understand why people have had a problem with it."
In the past, Jorna said, some merchants have said that the event had caused disagreements, especially when one year Halloween fell on a Friday. Some business owners, he said, argued that the trick-or-treating would take away from their business.
"I think it got too big over the years, but it is a great event for kids," said Erin Finley, owner of Sydney's. However she added, "If it is kept small, it could be maintained."
This year, Halloween falls on a Wednesday, leading some to believe keeping it small could be doable.
"I can't see how anyone would have a problem with it," Jorna said.
Jones said the event never hurt her business and what she may have lost, she said, was made up in good will.
"I say the more the merrier," said Jones, who said she will have candy available to any one who wants to trick-or-treat at her store this year.
Elyse Richman, owner of Shock and Baby Shock, said she too will still have candy.
"Why can't merchants just have candy and people can come down? I don't see why this has to be a big deal or be an event that belongs to anybody."
Richman suggests that instead of closing down Main Street, merchants can just invite residents to come down and trick-or-treat at the shops.
Finley suggested that if it is brought back to Main Street, advertising for the event should stay local.
Westhampton Beach Chamber President Dwayne Wagner said that bringing the event back to Main Street next year could be an option, but would have to be reviewed by the chamber's board of directors and the PTA.
"Nothing would prohibit it from coming back. What should happen is a collaboration between the Chamber and the PTA," said Wagner, who said that the decision to reinvent the Halloween event was made last year by the former chamber board and the PTA.
"I wasn't the president at that time," said Wagner, adding that historically there have been mixed feelings about the Main Street event.
"There have been complaints that the event has gotten too large," he said.
While the school district has planned all of this year's events – which include a parade to from the school to the traffic circle, a haunted house and other activities – the Chamber is providing funding for candy, said Wagner.
"It sounds like it will be a fun time with some nice activities," he said.
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