Juliann Rooke had to replace Descanso Gardens’ Carved event.

Juliann Rooke had to replace Descanso Gardens’ Carved event. Photo by Ringo Chiu.

With major theme parks in the L.A. area still closed because of the coronavirus, their popular annual Halloween attractions are also shuttered.

Among the seasonal haunts sidelined this year are Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights in Universal City; Knott’s Scary Farm at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park; and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Disneyland.  

The parks did not respond to requests for comment about how canceling these events will affect a bottom line already ravaged by Covid-19 closures. 

Some local venues are adapting to pandemic restrictions by decorating rather than providing live entertainment or hands-on activities. One is Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge.

Juliann Rooke, executive director at Descanso Gardens, said the botanical park decided to cancel its popular Carved events this year. In previous years, Carved offered pumpkin carving workshops and demonstrations, as well as a magical, 1-mile walk on a path lined with 1,000 hand-carved pumpkins, some as large as 100 pounds.
In 2019, Carved ran for five nights, Oct. 23-27, with a $25 admission for members, and $30 for nonmembers.

“To make that financially viable for the gardens, we have to have lots of visitors,” Rooke said. In previous years, Carved routinely sold out, drawing about 3,000 visitors per evening, from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

With social distancing restrictions, a much smaller number of people would have been able to proceed through the path, Rooke said, and the park decided that carving workshops required too much close contact to be safe.

This year, pre-Covid, Descanso Gardens had planned to expand to 20 nights of Carved to accommodate demand, according to Rooke. Canceling Carved events represents a 14% loss in the park’s $12 million annual revenue in recent pre-Covid years.

“It’s a big number,” she said. “It was a hit to our budget.”

Instead, Descanso Gardens has added more decorative attractions to the grounds than usual, including floral displays, a Pumpkin House, foods for sale and a sea monster rising from one of the ponds.

Admission is free to members and $15 for regular visitors. However, due to limited admission, reservations are required, and weekend dates have already sold out through October.

Music Center President and Chief Executive Rachel Moore said the downtown performing arts center cannot present live performances on its newly named Jerry Moss Plaza.

But the institution is moving ahead with its eighth annual “Grand Park’s Downtown Día de los Muertos” festival.

Moore said the event, with its focus on public art, is an “intermediate step” toward reinstating live performance on the plaza in the future.  

“We will have public arts in the plaza, and in Grand Park at least we can do digital art for people to come and see,” Moore said. “We are putting our toe into that world.”  
In past years, Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood has opened its grounds to visitors on the Saturday before Nov. 2 for Día de los Muertos.

Those festivities are canceled this year, as well as a range of Halloween-themed movie screenings and events usually held on the grounds. The cemetery reports that it is losing about 5% of its annual revenue due to canceled October events.

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