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SALEM — It may not be what tourists are used to, but the City of Salem is moving ahead with plans to host its annual Haunted Happenings celebration of all-things-Halloween this October.
Due to the pandemic and the cancellation of many events, things will look a lot different this year.
Nonetheless, there still are many ways to enjoy the great outdoors and experience several Halloween-themed activities, including the new Salem Witch Trials 1692 and Salem Stories special exhibits at the Peabody Essex Museum, which opens this Saturday. There will also be traditional year-round favorites, including the Tales and Tombstones Trolley Tours, the Haunted Footsteps Ghost Tour, the Haunted Happenings Harbor Cruise, the Halloween Museum, and, of course, the Salem Witch Museum.
Joining the fun this year is a new initiative from the folks at Creative Collective — the first-ever Haunted Happenings Virtual Marketplace, an event featuring over 200 makers, artisans performers, crafters and entertainers, who plan on bringing their talents together to celebrate the Halloween season.
Collective founder John Andrews said that, with the cancellation of so many events, the marketplace will support hundreds of creative artists and performers who have lost opportunities to provide visitors with a traditional Salem October experience. He is hopeful that the marketplace will be the answer to the ongoing challenges faced by many in the world of arts and culture.
“This dynamic virtual market will drive much-needed revenue and help make up for a portion of what’s been lost these past few months,” said Andrews. “Covid-19 nearly eviscerated many small creative businesses and some won’t be able to survive this crisis. Hundreds of local makers and small businesses lost every in-person opportunity to sell their wares this year, and we needed a solution to this seemingly impossible challenge.”
Andrews said the event will be structured to provide both online and in-person activities. Collective members and all 2019 Marketplace participants have been granted free digital listings. Collective is still accepting new vendors and is actively working with Destination Salem, Salem Haunted Happenings, Haunted Happenings Magazine and Happy Halloween to provide a safe alternative for consumers and businesses alike that look forward to October in Salem.
The marketplace promises to be more than just a virtual craft fair; it is also a place to find a variety of entertainment experiences along with many safe, friendly, in-person activities and events.
There will be speciality crafting and DIY events, including pumpkin succulent arrangements with Magnolia Blooms and broom making with The Witchery. Also participating are gothic clothing, shoes and accessories shop Die with Your Boots On; Shindig, which specializes in funky jewelry and pins and vintage clothing; and Savor Designs, which sells unique clothing and costumes.
Several contests will be held through the month with prizes for things from Best Costume, with the winner receiving a $500 cash prize from the Salem Halloween Museum, to Best Halloween Tattoo.
“Before COVID, we managed most of October in Salem, so obviously losing so many events is a big loss for us and many of our members,” said Andrews. “We took all of our technology skills and pivoted, so now we have an entire online market to help support the many businesses dependent on the month of October but have had their lifelines cut out.
“With so much uncertainty already coming down the line, ‘wait and see’ just wasn’t good enough for us, especially when ‘wait and see’ meant holding our collective breath until 2021, or longer.”
Destination Salem’s Kate Fox said her office is encouraging potential visitors to download its new app so they stay current.
“You can get it at the app store and it will be a valuable resource for people to get updates and other information about what’s going on and things like safety requirements,” she said. “It’s been tough. We feel like we are threading a needle between public health and having as many events as we can this year.”