Last year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, families faced a year “without Halloween.”
Trick or treating was cancelled nationwide – and the usual fanfare that comes with the spookiest time of the year was at a standstill.
Carina Ortiz and the team in the community relations unit at Bakersfield Police Department decided to host its annual HaLLaween event as a drive-through instead of walk through.
Ortiz said they expected to see residents show up for a tiny bit of Halloween fun, but what they didn’t expect was to create a city-wide traffic jam. Residents arrived in droves to say “trick or treat” to friendly police officers handing out candy through a car window and the lines to get into the event went for hours.
“I think people just really needed something that would make them forget everything we were going through. So, our Halloween event had a huge turnout,” Ortiz said. “We held our drive through at a park with a long driveway with one entrance and one exit.”
“Folks were actually lining up on the street and jamming traffic. I started to see cars line up as we were setting up and that’s when I realized we were unprepared for how big this was going to be,” she said.
In hindsight, Ortiz is happy the police department was able to provide something to residents who were craving a sense of normalcy.
It’s a Halloween none of them will soon forget.
This year, the HaLLaween event will pivot once again as Ortiz and the team at the community relations unit are prepared to host the annual celebration from 4 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, October 28 in the North parking lot of City Hall.
This year, the drive-through experience has been turned into an outside curbside experience.
“We aren’t hosting it inside this year, and we aren’t doing the drive-through. We did decide to move it out to the parking lot where we can have room – and distance – for everyone who wants to attend the event,” Ortiz said. “Our units have prepared their costumes for the competition and each one will have a themed area. It’s nice for everyone to get into the Halloween spirit and connect with the community. That’s the best part.”
Sgt. Sean Morphis from the Special Victims Unit has been a part of the department’s annual Halloween event since it began in 2019. He and his team won top awards for their group costume, which was characters from the Toy Story movie. Their unit included Mr. Potato Head, Buzz Lightyear and the three-eyed Alien.
The dedication and fun of the Bakersfield Police Department event is undeniable.
“The first year we did this event, we didn’t really understand how fun it could be, but by the second year, we were able to plan and prepare for this,” Morphis said.
“We enjoyed the friendly competition between units and we all kind of fed off of it. We all wanted the best costumes, the best design … it’s all just a lot of fun for us. Gives us a chance to relax from the stress of day-to-day police work,” Morphis said.