Halloween festivities in the Town of Bonnyville will once again be wrapped up by 7 p.m. this year after town council voted to keep its long-running curfew on unaccompanied trick-or-treaters in place.
For the best part of a month now, the town has been gripped in debates and discussions over the lingering issue and, in addressing council on Sept. 22, a small collection of local parents pressed home their belief that the bylaw, initially brought in, according to the Town, way back in 1929 and amended to its current state in 2004, is "restrictive" and "outdated".
"I moved to this town three years ago to work in the oilfield and, as I'm sure most of you are aware, we tend to miss out on a lot of stuff working on the patch," said Bonnyville parent Joseph House. "We don't get thanksgiving off, we don't get Easter off - we don't shut down for anything other than Christmas."
He added, "This town has changed a lot over the years. I'm not disagreeing with the curfew, I'm just asking that you guys extend it a little bit so that us oilfield dads can get home and spend time with our children on Halloween."
"If I know that I can come home from the rig after a hard day's work and take my two-year-old boy out to even one house and watch his face light up, that's my day right there."
Bonnyville Mayor Gene Sobolewski said there has been "miscommunications and misconceptions" regarding the bylaw, pointing out that town has never had an issue with kids staying out past 7 p.m. to trick or treat, providing they are accompanied by a parent or guardian.
He did though maintain that he would not be in favour of extending the deadline beyond 7 p.m. for those not accompanied by adults, a move that was supported both by the Bonnyville policing committee and the rest of town council.
"This is a bylaw that has been around in Bonnyville for a long, long time," Sobolewski said. "The premise (for it) is to cut down on vandalisms and things of that nature, but also to encourage young people to get out and do what they need to do, have fun on Halloween, but make sure they stay safe while doing so."
He added, "There have been several iterations of this thing, dating back to 1929, and ever since 2004, the curfew has been set at 7 p.m. What that means is that any child under the age of 16 out beyond that time without an adult will be asked to go home."
Although Sobolewski said the bylaw has always allowed adults to take their children trick or treating beyond 7 p.m. those local residents in attendance and several members of council said this was the first time they were hearing about that.
"Everybody I've ever spoken to in and around town has been under the impression that once 7 o'clock hits, the kids have to be off the streets, whether they're accompanied by an adult or not," said Heather Missen, who last week took to social media to try and bring the issue into the public eye.
Town Coun. Lorna Storoschuk said she too was always under the impression that the 7 p.m. curfew applied to everybody, stating that perhaps it was up to council now to go about ensuring the public knows all the ins and outs pertaining to the bylaw.
Following the discussion with residents, Coun. Ray Prevost said he personally would not be in favour of anybody trick or treating beyond 7 p.m. and made a motion to revisit the bylaw at the Town's Oct. 7 meeting. That motion was defeated by the rest of council.
Moving forward, Sobolewski said he would be doing "all that he can" to ensure that local residents are made aware of the fact that they are allowed to take their children out trick or treating beyond the 7 p.m. curfew.
"There's been a lot of confusion over this bylaw recently and I think we really have to set people straight and do what we can to make sure the people know what they can and cannot do on Halloween," Sobolewski said. "I have no problem with kids being out beyond the deadline as long as they are accompanied (by an adult). Be sensible, make sure you're not going to doors with their lights off and (we shouldn't have too many problems)."