By a lucky turn of the calendar, Haverhill kids will trick-or-treat on Halloween this year.
Most years, Haverhill kids go door-to-door on the final Saturday of October, regardless of the date or its proximity to the holiday. This year, Halloween — Oct. 31 — falls on the last Saturday of the month, meaning Haverhill kids will trick-or-treat on the same day as kids in neighboring communities.
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If it were up to the Haverhill police, trick-or-treat would always occur on the actual holiday, said police Capt. Michael Wrenn.
Police schedule extra shifts on trick-or-treat night as well as Halloween, Wrenn said.
The extra patrols on trick-or-treat night are to make sure children are safe while going house-to-house, and the extra shifts on Halloween are needed because of the celebrations planned by adults to enjoy the holiday.
Having to schedule extra shifts on two separate days is difficult given staffing levels, Wrenn said. If trick-or-treat occurred on Halloween, it would be easier to fill the extra shifts.
Wrenn said police are not concerned that children would be in harm's way by trick-or-treating on the same night that adults are out celebrating the holiday. Trick-or-treat hours, at 5 to 7 p.m., are over long before adult activities begin, he said.
The Haverhill City Council voted in 1996 to ban trick-or-treating on Halloween in favor of the last Saturday in October, according to The Haverhill Gazette's archives. The reasons were varied, including safety and eliminating the activity on a school night.
In 2008, City Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O'Brien, as chairman of the Administration and Finance Committee, presided over the most recent set of hearings to determine whether trick-or-treat should revert to the real holiday. Her committee has met three times in the last eight years to discuss it.
In the end, her committee recommends keeping trick-or-treat on Saturdays.
"The discussion to keep (trick or treating) the way it is wins out every time. The working parents who want to keep it the way it is are the most vocal. They continue to be the most vocal about it, so they're the ones I'm listening to," Daly O'Brien said. The mayor and the City Council would have to approve any change. "I understand the tradition (of trick-or-treating on Halloween), but I think many parents like that it is on Saturday when it's still daylight, when kids don't have to get up and go to school the next day and when it is planned the same every year."
Mayor James Fiorentini is surveying residents about the date of trick-or-treat, which he said is the most-often fielded question by the mayor's office.
In his regular e-mail newsletter, Fiorentini gives constituents the chance to vote, either to keep trick-or-treat on the last Saturday or October or to allow trick-or-treat on Halloween.
City Council President Mike Hart said he has no strong feelings about the date of trick-or-treat, but that he is interested in learning the mayor's survey results.
"Last year, the issues that flooded my e-mail inbox were the library, second to Halloween. I got passionate pleas from parents not wanting it changed and from traditionalists that didn't think it made sense to keep it (on Saturdays). My e-mail inbox was lit up every day. People took a long time to craft their arguments. In the end, those who said 'Don't change it' slightly outnumbered those who wanted a change. The population was pretty much split right down the middle on this, but just slightly more for keeping it on Saturdays."
Hart said he can see the arguments for both sides.
"Initially, I thought changing it back to Halloween made sense, but I couldn't ignore the parents on the other side. They brought up arguments I didn't even think of before," Hart said.
Wrenn said that, to his knowledge, police Chief Alan DeNaro has not called the mayor to state his preference, "but if the mayor were to ask the chief, he prefers that it be on the actual date."