by Shawn Chitnis

BURLINGAME (KPIX) — Peninsula residents spent Sunday putting the finishing touches on their Halloween decorations, excited to welcome back trick-or-treaters with pounds of candy after downsizing or canceling their celebrations in 2020 because of the pandemic.

“Last year we closed up shop. We didn’t really decorate. We put out a sign that said ‘Sorry, we’ll see you guys next year,'” said Steve Macko in Burlingame.

Families felt as if the spirit — or spirits — of the holiday had returned this weekend even though they still have to weigh concerns over COVID-19.

Macko and his wife said they have so many decorations for Halloween they store most of their display items in the basement. They purchased two thousand pieces of candy for this year’s Halloween and they expect they will only be able to hand out one piece per child.

“We love it. We love Halloween,” Melissa Macko said. “We didn’t want to be part of the problem last year. We said ‘have a Happy Halloween and we’ll see you next year!'”

While their display can be a little spooky for young children to handle, they try to keep it as friendly as possible with more scares added at night, once it gets darker and the children are older. The Mackos were handing out candy from their driveway and wore masks. They hope others will do the same and are pleased that most costumes already have a mask.

“We were so detached from everybody else that it really kind of added for these guys to be able to have conversations,” said Rhea Rampel, another Burlingame resident and parent of young children who cannot get the COVID-19 vaccine yet. “I think that people are a little bit more comfortable this year.”

With two young sons, Rampel’s decorations were more fun than frightful. Last year they spent time on their front yard greeting neighbors as a family of four. That concept helped inspire their theme this year with four skeletons on lawn chairs. Rampel says they are spending the holiday with families they know and are being cautious since their children are unvaccinated. They will leave candy outside avoiding direct contact with others.

“We’ve been really lucky this whole year with school. We haven’t had any scares, we haven’t had any outbreaks,” she added. “I think most people feel like we’re ready, we’re back.”

For some residents it was still a challenge to get all the energy they’ve had in the past to set up their display outside this month.

“Every year we’ve done more and more,” said Kendra Wehmeyer who has a 15-year-old son. “COVID obviously put a damper on things. We decorated but not as much. This year it was tough, I think we’re all just exhausted.”

Wehmeyer is grateful her family does not have to consider the same precautions for COVID because everyone in their home is vaccinated. The spirit of Halloween started for them when they moved to the neighborhood 16 years ago and they expect their enthusiasm will be fully restored by 2022.

“If I had younger kids, I’d definitely have them masked if they were trick-or-treating. I just think it’s safer,” she said. “Next year I think we’ll probably get back to doing a little bit more.”

Elaborate Halloween decorations come with the territory in this Burlingame neighborhood. Some residents say they knew what they were signing up for when they bought their home here. The Macko family moved here in 2006 and they remember that paperwork related to the sale of the house included expectations for this holiday.

“It’s been years in the making. Truth be told,” Mr. Macko said.