The One Where We Spent Halloween On A Barge

The year is 2020 and, lets face it, nothing has been normal for anyone. Halloween looked a bit different everywhere.

But perhaps, the most different for my kiddos.

If you’ve been following along on our Captains Log you’ll notice that this story jumps ahead quite a bit. I’ll go back and fill in the gaps in the weeks to come. However, it felt appropriate to go ahead with a time sensitive holiday post.

Quick backstory on why we couldn’t just have a somewhat normal celebration: The Army Corp of Engineers closed the Illinois Waterway locks for maintenance from July 1st to October 29th. This blocked all traffic between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi.

To continue our Loop (and most importantly, get south before winter!) we needed to get through this waterway as quickly as possible after it opened. MUCH more to come on this, but for now it’s important to know that our schedule was very much dictated by the locks.

In other words, Halloween was completely out of our control this year. We had no idea where we’d be and what it would look like.

In early October we began to anticipate this situation and did our best to plan a special day.

We decided on a family costume theme- Gilligan’s Island.

These costumes were not only fitting for our boat life situation, but it made the kids really happy to all dress up.

We also bought the ingredients for our traditional meal, Jack O Lantern stuffed peppers. Although it can be a little challenging on a boat, for special occasions we’re trying to keep food as similar as we can to being in a home. Call it our own version of comfort food!

And finally, we bought two HUGE bags of candy at Costco and told the kids they could eat as much as they want all day on Halloween.

Beyond that, there was nothing about the day I could control. So we went into the week with a flexible attitude all the way around.

Fast forward to our river run…

Our group’s efficiency getting through the locks was amazing (again, more on that soon!) We’d blown past my “best case scenario” itinerary and on Saturday October 31st we continued moving the boat south.

Destination for Halloween evening: A barge on the Illinois River.

Sounds crazy, right?

At first we were worried that the kids would be disappointed. We actually gave them the option of hanging back for a day and staying in a marina for a more traditional setting. But they wanted to stay with the group, no matter what that looked like.

In hindsight, it was the coolest and most memorable way to spend Halloween 2020 that I could ever imagine!

Our group of 6 boats arrived at the barge in the late afternoon and began tying up. This took a considerable amount of work because we had to raft together and figure out the safest way to tie up to allow people and dogs on and off the boats.

It worked out for our boat to be the thoroughfare for the kids and dogs.

Once we were all secure, a group of us braved the barge ladder climb over the flood wall to check out Beardstown. What it lacks in population and businesses, it makes up for in charm!

We even had several locals invite our kiddos to trick-or-treat through downtown.

Again, we gave Mary Grace and Miller the option, but they decided to stay with our boat group for the evening. (We’d grown very close to the other kids and adults traveling in our group!)

While I cooked dinner for our family, all the kids played kick-the-can on the barge. The grill was going, the sun was setting and the kids were all giggling. It’s truly a memory I’ll never forget!

After dinner everyone came over to our boat for a Halloween party. I was blown away by the kindness of other boaters in our group who made the holiday so special for all the kids. There was SO much candy- and even goodie bags, glow sticks and great costumes.

Naturally, there were a few times during the day when we reminisced about our amazing memories with our neighborhood friends.

However, I can honestly say the day was so drastically different and perfect in it’s own way. We made new Halloween memories that will last a lifetime.

I mean, how many people can say they’ve spent a major holiday on a barge?

As always, thanks for following along on our crazy adventure! I can’t wait to fill in the gaps from our river(s) story soon!

Until then, you might also enjoy reading:

The One With All Things Remote: Working, Learning and Living

The One With Our Name and City

Vancouver, Canada With Kids

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