News Briefs: Halloween is different this year, as safety is a priority

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Wednesday October 28, 2020
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Local Take is one of the Castro district stores participating in a kids' touchlesss trick-or-treat event on Halloween. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Local Take is one of the Castro district stores participating in a kids' touchlesss trick-or-treat event on Halloween. Photo: Rick Gerharter

Halloween will be much different this year, and not just because there is no longer a street party in the Castro (it largely ended in 2007) — or any official city-sponsored events. The novel coronavirus pandemic has put the kibosh on large gatherings, and state health officials have discouraged trick-or-treating for October 31.

For those celebrating Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a Mexican traditional celebration honoring the deceased, the California Department of Public Health recommends that the traditional altars be placed outside or created virtually. Cemetery visits should be kept short, officials advised. The Mission district event has been moved online.

San Francisco's Castro neighborhood will have touchless trick-or-treat event for kids Saturday, October 31, from 2 to 5 p.m. Jenn Meyer of Local Take and Castro Merchants organized the event and told the Bay Area Reporter earlier this month that about a half-dozen businesses had signed up, with more expected.

"We're just all looking for something to do these days, a path to follow, and it's time to start defining our new normal," Meyer wrote in an email.

"The Castro has always been such a lively neighborhood with Halloween such a huge part of its history," Meyer added. "I'd like to bring some of that back in a safe way, and hopefully build on it in the years to come. It's also a great way to remind neighbors that there's still a bunch of great businesses in the Castro."

Some participating merchants include Meyer's Local Take, 3979B 17th Street; Cliff's Variety, 479 Castro Street; and Stag and Manor, 2327 Market Street.

A map of businesses taking part is on Local Take's website at

The San Francisco Police Department stated that there will be extra patrols on Halloween and noted the Department of Public Health recommends home-based activities and the use of reopened and permitted businesses and social activities that don't pose as high a risk of coronavirus transmission.

These include virtual parties or contests, scavenger hunts for treats in your living space for members of your family, outdoor pumpkin carving, and outdoor, open-air costume parades with no more than 12 people with face coverings and participants remaining more than six feet apart.

In the South Bay, Project More will hold an LGBTQ+ HalloWellness pop-up Halloween-themed clinic. According to spokesman Nathan Svoboda, the free event takes place Friday, October 30, from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Local Color, 27 South First Street in downtown San Jose.

People can receive COVID-19 tests, flu and other vaccinations, HIV home test kits, safer sex care packages, and wellness toolkits.

Walk-ups are welcome, though people can also make an appointment. For more information, go to

Dia de los Muertos at Most Holy Redeemer

Most Holy Redeemer Roman Catholic Church in the Castro is inviting people to participate in an altar of remembrance for Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).

Catholics worldwide traditionally commemorate the dead from October 31 to November 2. MHR will be having a mass Monday, November 2, at 8 a.m. and people are free to bring photos of deceased loved ones, including pets, and place them on the table at the entrance to the church at any time through November 22, according to the parish pastor, the Reverend Matt Link.

Link stated that "it helps us if you put your name on the back of the photo so we make sure your pictures make their [way] back to you at the end of next month."

"The ties of love which knit and bind us together are so strong," Link added. "These ties are not unraveled in death."

Jeffery Kwong, a parishioner at MHR, said that there are new COVID remembrances already lining the walls of the church.

"Every year I bring a picture of my counselor at Lowell High School, Sue DeVries, to Most Holy Redeemer, where her partner and wife Vicki and her students held her funeral mass," Kwong stated. "It's a time for reflection of those we love — those that we miss in our community."

People can also participate from afar by emailing a photo to [email protected], after which the photo will be printed out.

Currently, in San Francisco, indoor places of worship are allowed to be open at 25% of capacity, up to 100 people. This is scheduled to expand to 50% of capacity, up to 200 people on November 3, as the city moves into the yellow tier of reopening.

MHR is located at 100 Diamond Street in the Castro.

B.A.R. assistant editor John Ferrannini. Photo: Courtesy John Ferrannini  

B.A.R. editor secures aging fellowship
B.A.R. assistant editor John Ferrannini has earned an aging-focused fellowship from the Gerontological Society of America. He is one of 15 reporters for the next cohort of the Journalists in Aging Fellows Program, now in its 11th year.

According to a news release from the society, the projects will be produced in 2021 and include mental health challenges of older adults due to COVID-19, issues surrounding senior housing, employment, aging in place, and other topics. Ferrannini's pieces will focus on LGBTQ elder housing issues, including the pandemic's impact, and senior isolation.

The program is supported by funding from the Silver Century Foundation, the RFF Foundation for Aging, the Commonwealth Fund, the John A. Hartford Foundation, and the Gannett Foundation.

Others who received the fellowships are: Lola Butcher, Undark magazine; Xuanlu "Melody" Cao, SinoVision Inc.; Diane Eastabrook, PBS Next Avenue; Carl L. Johnson, PolyByDesign and Faika Broadcasting; Jenny Manrique, Palabra/National Hispanic Journalists Association; Margaret "Peggy" Sands Orchowski, Ph.D., the Georgetowner; Jatika H. Patterson, the Crisis/NAACP; Nargis Rahman, Tostada magazine; Rachel Roubein, Politico; Lara Salahi, Gannett Media's New England North Unit; Maria Sestito, the Desert Sun; Casey Smith, the Associated Press; Eduardo Stanley, Community Alliance; and Julia Yarbough, Action News Now, KHSL/KNVN.

B.A.R. assistant editor Matthew S. Bajko received a similar fellowship in 2014.

Singer Patti LaBelle. Photo: Derek Blanks  

LaBelle to headline PRC virtual gala
Patti LaBelle, the Godmother of Soul, will headline PRC's virtual gala Saturday, November 7, from 6 to 7:15 p.m.

Known as Mighty Real, the gala will be livestreamed and feature LaBelle receiving the agency's Sylvester Community Pillar Award.

"How fortunate are we to get to spend a beautiful fall evening with the incomparable Patti LaBelle as we gather virtually this year to support those in need across San Francisco," PRC CEO Brett Andrews stated in a news release. "This has been a trying year for everyone, so we're thankful for the opportunity to bring some musical light to everyone's lives. Ms. LaBelle is the epitome of both compassion and glamour, and we're looking forward to our time together."

The Sylvester award is named after Sylvester James Jr., the gay singer-songwriter best known for a string of 1970s and 1980s disco singles, including "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)." Sylvester, who campaigned against the spread of HIV/AIDS, died of complications of the disease in 1988. In his will, the singer directed royalties from all future sales of his music to two San Francisco-based AIDS organizations, the AIDS Emergency Fund, which merged with PRC in 2016, and Project Open Hand.

For the upcoming PRC gala, residents in San Francisco and Oakland are offered a "dinner and wine" option from Absinthe Brasserie and Bar delivered to your door. Ticket prices (without a meal) start at $100 and can be purchased at

The cost for the event and dinner is $200.

John Ferrannini contributed reporting.

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