Marin’s drive-through Halloween offers a safe alternative

Halloween fans are figuring out ways to celebrate in a COVID-19 world.

Health officials are strongly warning against traditional trick or treating and parties.

Friday evening, a drive-through version launched at the Marin County fairgrounds in San Rafael. 

"When it's dark and everything's lit up and you drive through it, hopefully it will be a little spooky," said Marin County Fair Director Gabriella Calicchio.

"When the kids pass by, they're waving with big smiles on their faces, I think this is just what the doctor ordered."

The cost is $10 per car no matter how many passengers.

Vehicles pass by costumed staffers, who hand Halloween candy through the car windows.

"I love it, I really think this was fun," said one young participant, taking in the inflatable dinosaurs, an animatronic werewolf, and other colorful displays. 

"Nobody leaves their car, we designed this so it would be a completely safe family-friendly event," said Calicchio.

Opening at 11 am on weekends, and 4 pm on weekdays, the "Spooktacular" event also offers favorite fair food. 

"We got a funnel cake and we have a gyro coming and some garlic fries," enthused one driver, waiting for her order. 

"We're not looking at a very traditional Halloween this year so we're looking for any non-traditional things we can do."

The Halloween theme was a natural outgrowth of the popular fair food events held during the summer at fairgrounds in Santa Rosa and San Rafael.

But those drive-throughs often had long lines, so to make the wait less tedious, the Halloween version offers entertainment. 

With clowns and a 100 year old organ, the atmosphere is definitely more goofy than ghoulish.

"I think we need something happy," said food vendor Phil Delahoyde.

"There's a lot of cool things to look at but it's not overly scary, and wasn't mean to be really scary."

Delahoyde's Extreme Food and Beverage lost its core income - fairs and festivals- due to the pandemic.

Pivoting to car service has helped.

"When it was first happening, I was trying to figure it out, and came up with this, but our industry is devastated," admitted Delahoyde.

The Halloween event also offers a few carnival games such as ring-toss, that can be played from the open car window.

"It's very safe and very fun," said one mom behind the wheel as her young passengers played games. 

"They won some stuffed toys, people gave them candy as we drove around and we had a fair dinner in the car."

The Marin Fair expects, over ten days, to welcome about 10,000 vehicles.

"We are giving back to our community and giving our families an opportunity to get out of the house and do something fun with their kids," said Calicchio.

Organizers may extend the closing time past  9 pm if response is strong, to avoid sending anyone away.

"I think they did a great job, it's fun and we might even come back," smiled one mom, shuttling her car-load of kids through the attraction.  

Debora Villalon is a reporter for KTVU. Email Debora at and follow her on Twitter @DeboraKTVU.