The Church and Wellesley Village is celebrating Halloween differently this year
The annual Church Street Halloween party is cancelled this year in keeping with Ontario’s Stage 2 guidelines.
The block party, which sees hundreds gather in the streets of the Church and Wellesley Village every year, is one of many events called off for the fall season as Toronto has seen COVID-19 restrictions tightened.
“For over 20 years of Halloween on Church, many people have gathered in our village, and unfortunately, it is not safe to do so at this time,” said Caitlynn Fairbarns, the marketing co-ordinator at the Church-Wellesley Village business improvement area. “This was a hard decision but we must follow the provincial guidelines.”
The village announced in a tweet on Sept. 11 that the party would be cancelled in accordance with the province’s Stage 3 restrictions, which allows for a maximum of 100 people at outdoor gatherings.
The Ontario government has since moved Toronto back to a modified Stage 2 for 28 days, along with the two other COVID-19 hotspots of Ottawa and Peel Region. These new restrictions prohibit indoor dining at restaurants, bars and other food and drink serving venues, and further limits outdoor gatherings to 25 people.
Fairbarns says the businesses in the village are feeling the effects of the pandemic.
“With many of our safe gathering places in Toronto and across the globe permanently closing, it is important now more than ever to support 2SLGBTQ+ businesses,” Fairbarns said. “While all of our businesses have felt the strain of the pandemic, they continue to fight to maintain safe spaces for the 2SLGBTQ+ community in Toronto.”
Fairbarns has seen the village’s businesses continue this fight in creative ways, by holding virtual events such as launching new delivery services and CafeTO Patios in rainbow colours.
Stormcrow Manor, a “nerd” themed bar on Church Street, has started a handful of new initiatives during the pandemic.
Jessica Langer, chief marketing officer at Stormcrow, said the restaurant launched an online store in late March, shortly after lockdown began. They sell everything from pandemic-themed T-shirts to mugs shaped like creatures from the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Langer says one of their most popular items is the “D2020,” a 20-sided die, with each face listing a different catastrophe that has occured this year.
“This year, we’re trying to laugh at death,” Langer said. She explained they’ve launched a new product called death burger — miniature hamburgers served on black buns stamped with skull imprints. On Halloween night, death burgers will be available to be delivered by an employee dressed as the grim reaper, driving a hearse.
Halloween has always been important at Stormcrow, said owner Jason Kapalka. Delivery drivers for the rest of Stormcrow’s menu will also be in full cosplay on Halloween night, which Langer says is part of the establishment’s plan to bring Halloween to their community, since the community cannot come to them.
While revellers will not be able to gather in the streets, organizers of Halloween on Church have arranged an online event to connect the community virtually. Halloween content will be shared live online, featuring drag performances, artists, community leaders and other guests.
The event begins at 8 on Halloween night, and the Village is running a social media costume contest across all its platforms leading up to the start of the event.
“We know that not being able to safely gather on Church Street to celebrate Halloween is a huge loss to the community,” Fairbarns said. “It is important now more than ever to stay home, stay safe and connect with the community.”
Evan Listro, a Ryerson student in Ted Rogers School of Management who usually attends Halloween on Church, says he is always impressed with the sense of community at the party.
“There’s just a feeling of togetherness when you’re there,” Listro said. “And it’s this sort of energy that surrounds it, that I think is so awesome.”
Listro says he feels strongest for the children who will be missing out on trick-or-treating and other traditional Halloween activities.
Kapalka agrees, saying that while Halloween isn’t exactly cancelled, it’s not the time for people to be celebrating the way they might like.
“But next year, hopefully,” he said. “Next year we’ll make up for it.”