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Thursday, December 3, 2020

Bellingham Bells host drive-thru trick-or-treating

The team let families drive into Joe Martin Field to celebrate Halloween while following distancing guidelines

A family in their car trick or treating at Joe Martin Field. Photo by Ashley Ferns

By Ryan Myrvold

Although the COVID-19 pandemic may have changed the way most celebrated Halloween this year, the Bellingham Bells baseball team hosted a drive-thru trick-or-treating event to bring some spooky Halloween fun back to the community.

The Bellingham Bells are a summer collegiate baseball team that usually hosts games at Joe Martin Field, but the Bells canceled their 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

To stay connected with the Bellingham community, the Bells partnered with local businesses to host a drive-thru trick-or-treating event on Oct. 30 to let families dress up in costumes and safely enjoy the festivities. 

Stephanie Morell, the general manager of the Bellingham Bells, said the event was a way to give fans a chance to come back, see the stadium and safely celebrate Halloween.

“It’s just been a tough year with not a lot of anything very fun,” Morell said. “We were just trying to see if we could come up with something that could be fun …  and I think we found that.”

Morell said the Bells held a community food drive last summer to support the Bellingham Food Bank. Morell also said the team did not host events like this very often before the COVID-19 pandemic, but rather partnered with other organization’s events and would ensure the team’s mascot, Dinger the hamster, made appearances.

“Prior to the pandemic, these were not the things we usually do … our main event is baseball here at the ballpark,” Morell said. “This is new for us, for sure. But it’s kind of fun, and it’s showing us there’s more ways to do these sorts of things that are not a lot of time or expense when you get a lot of people involved.”

Maylon Hanold, the director of Seattle University’s sports business leadership masters program, said the event was a great way for the Bells to connect with the local community and reach out to fans despite the global pandemic.

“The sport fan is a unique fan, so they will attach to sport and the sports teams in a lot of different ways depending on where they see certain alignments with their own values,” Maylon said. “So, it could be an alignment of just entertainment, but it could also be an alignment of eight or 10 of those sponsors.”

Maylon said fans generally feel a strong connection with sports teams that connect to their values in some way, and people who feel loosely connected with teams are generally involved because of someone they know that is more closely connected with the team.

“In the last decade or so, there was always this shift in marketing and social media to have this conversation with your fans,” Maylon said. “But given that that now is the only way that people can really interact with their sports teams, I think they’ve really upped the ante on that, and the fans are able to engage in that conversation now.”

Jennifer Optaz, the owner of Fresh Space Redesign, a sponsor of the event, and a mother who attended the event with her young daughter, said the event was a great experience. 

“When we came in, it was just pretty straightforward,” Opatz said. “Cars just funnelled in; it was very organized. There wasn’t any crazy traffic or anything, and you could see two of the white tents with signage … they just had you roll down the window and say, ‘Happy Halloween,’ and the kids would get a goodie bag.”

Opatz said the event was socially distanced and that all members wore masks throughout the event, making it a safe and fun time for Opatz and her daughter.

“The moment she saw the tents and Dinger outside, she was just giggling and laughing and was super ready to say hello,” Optaz said. “It was quick and easy and brought lots of joy to my daughter.”

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