At East Hills Shopping Center, Halloween is a peak time for costumes, thrills and high foot traffic at its stores.

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During a pandemic, that gets a little bit tricky. But the mall’s management figured out how to combine several successful activities, including a petting zoo, trunk or treat and a movie, outdoors to keep people safe.

“We decided we’ll do something in the parking lot where people can wear a mask and social distance. And I know the trick-or-treats are going to do like bag candy where the kids can just grab it,” Tyson Huff-Garza, marketing director for the East Hills Shopping Center, said.

Starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, East Hills Shopping Center, 3702 Frederick Ave., will host the “Boo Bash.” It will include a petting zoo, trunk or treat, carriage rides, a balloon artist and an outdoor viewing of the movie “Hocus Pocus.”

With no trick-or-treat event in the mall for the first time in 65 years, Huff-Garza said its management knew it had to bring a day of proven crowd-pleasers to make up for it.

“I’m excited to see families having a good time, because you see so many things and it’s like ‘Canceled. Canceled. Canceled,’” he said.

The “Boo Bash” will begin at 10 a.m. with the mall’s reliably popular petting zoo by Orrick Acres Petting Zoo. That will continue until 1:30 p.m.

From noon to 4 p.m., a balloon artist will be touring the parking lot, making animals and other balloon designs for kids and adults. Meanwhile, individual families will be able to take carriage rides, courtesy of Duncan Carriages.

Huff-Garza said the carriage rides will take the place of hayrides to allow for a safe time for its guests.

“We did go from hayrides to carriage rides because of the rise of COVID cases. So carriage rides will be one family per ride and only six will be able to fit on that. But he’ll be here for four hours,” he said.

From 3 to 5 p.m., the mall will host “Trunk or Treat” in a way that will limit contact between the candy givers and takers.

“The ‘Trunk or Treat’ will be spaced out. So there will be a car, a space, another car. Most of them will hand out just bags that are pre-made and they’ll just grab them off to the table. So it’ll be a little different,” Huff-Garza said.

The night will close with an outdoor, drive-in style viewing of the PG-rated comedy “Hocus Pocus” at dusk. The movie stars Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy as three witches who awaken to try and win back their youth.

The viewing will be similar to other popular outdoor showings the mall has done in the past few months with movies like “Field of Dreams” and “Beethoven.”

“It’s easy to socially distance. Like, that’s up to you. You can stay in your car and not get out. Or you can get in front of the screen and kind of space yourself out,” Huff-Garza said.

Those wanting to go inside the mall can also get pictures in front of its giant jack-o’-lantern and check out the deals happening at its stores. Huff-Garza said it’s a good time for people to re-introduce themselves to East Hills.

“Things are starting to come back. To keep getting people in the building is our main goal. Our thoughts are ‘Come out. Be able to stay safe because of the rise of COVID and still be able to celebrate Halloween.’ Then hopefully, we move towards the holidays, it’ll get better,” he said.

The “Boo Bash” is free and open to all ages.

Andrew Gaug can be reached at

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