I had been doing some research trying to see if I could find an update on the carnival for this year and this popped into my news feed about thirty minutes ago. There has been a lot of back and forth regarding where the Haunted Happenings carnival was going to be set up this year – the lot on Derby street that had been its home has been purchased and is under construction. That land is now being turned into a small park area. The city went back and forth on placing the carnival at Riley Plaza and then the Salem Common, and now it looks like it has been called off entirely due to this. No one can agree on a safe place that can accommodate it without taking away from parking or causing issues with the influx of people in Salem during Oct.
Details per the Salem News:
“There will be no Haunted Happenings carnival on Salem Common, or anywhere else, this year.
In a letter to the City Council, released Tuesday, Mayor Kim Driscoll said she “will not be filing a request to accommodate the October carnival.”
City officials have been working in recent weeks on a plan to put the annual carnival on the Common. But the City Council would have to waive a rule prohibiting carnivals on the Common. That request was due to be submitted for Thursday;s council meeting.
But Driscoll felt she didn’t have the support from councilors to move a plan forward, she said Tuesday.
“I don’t know that there’s a site where there’s majority support for it within the city that we’ve identified to date,” Driscoll said.
The Haunted Happenings carnival was introduced in 2007 after Halloween night festivities had grown increasingly raucous, and even dangerous. The carnival and other new measures were aimed making the celebrations more family-friendly, and giving young people something to do. When it was introduced in 2007, arrests plummeted from 40 to 15 on Halloween night, and they have remained in the single digits ever since.
It was historically run on a parking lot on Derby Street, but the city bought that recently and is in the process of turning it into a waterfront park. So a new site was needed this year.
A City Council committee rejected an initial proposal to put the carnival on Riley Plaza, citing concerns about traffic, safety and loss of parking. When that proposal fell apart, the mayor’s office floated the idea of putting it at Salem Common, which already has a small kiddie carnival every fall, run by the neighborhood association.
Reaction among residents was mixed; some supported a trial run, but many others who turned out at a neighborhood meeting were opposed.
To pass the City Council, six of the 11 members would have needed to vote yes, but the numbers weren’t there, according to Driscoll.
“I understand there are some concerns, but there were also people who were supportive,” Driscoll said. “But if there isn’t support on the council, it doesn’t make sense to advance it if there aren’t six votes.”
Other proposals, like putting the carnival in the Church Street parking lot or in Klopp Alley alongside Artists Row, were also discussed but not moved forward due to their apparent drawbacks.
Now, officials must look for something to fill a void the size of a Ferris wheel.
“I don’t like taking a tool away from the police department during a really busy month,” Driscoll said. “The carnival isn’t just an amusement — it was part of the public safety planning that went into Haunted Happenings and Halloween. We’re going to have to work to identify potential alternatives to address the hole in the public safety plan from this not being here.”
Though they may not be safety tools, there is still a packed program of family-friendly activities lined up for this year, according to Kate Fox, executive director of Destination Salem.
“Everything is already planned. We’re so late in the planning game that I’m not sure what will fill that gap, but we do have family film nights on Saturdays on the Common,” Fox said. “Oct. 13 will have the Halloween pet parade, and that’s the date of the a cappella. We’re doing Wicked Wednesdays on Wednesday afternoons, and the Jack-o’-Lantern walk looks like it’ll be amazing.”
Still, “we’re getting daily calls asking if and where the carnival will be,” Fox said.
“It’s a shame,” Fox said. “Haunted Happenings will go on without the carnival, but there’s definitely going to be a gap.””