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Volunteers, port-a-potties help Salem in shutdown

SALEM, Mass. (AP) – The partial federal government shutdown is riling witches and visitors alike in the Massachusetts city that held the notorious witch trials of 1692, where officials have lined up dozens of volunteers and some portable toilets to replace services lost when the National Park Service closed its visitor center.

Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll said Friday the timing of the shutdown couldn’t be worse for the city that sees a quarter of its annual visitors during October’s “Haunted Happenings.” The monthlong event _ featuring daily Halloween trick-or-treats, a psychic fair and witchcraft expo as well as numerous special events _ generates $30 million for the city.

The government shutdown, however, has forced the National Park Service to close its Salem visitor center. The facility provides information on national maritime historic sites and other local attractions and has public restrooms.

“People have stepped up, we got a makeshift visitor center set up, we brought in portable toilets, so anyone needing information isn’t gonna be lost,” Driscoll said.

Nancy Ryan of Manhattan, Ill., says the shutdown is affecting her trip in “in a very bad way” since visitors have to use port-a-potties set up outside the shuttered visitor center.

She said she hopes members of Congress have to come to Salem to use the port-a-potties “because that’s where they belong.”

Verna Hahn from Kelowna, in the British Columbia province of Canada, was grateful that volunteers with deep knowledge of Salem had stepped up to provide information to visitors. Without their help, she said, the trip “would have been awful.”

“This is once-in-a-lifetime we are going to be here. We are not coming back, so it’s a lot of dollars the city is going to be losing if we are not here, spending our money and that . is a snowball effect” on the local economy,” Hahn said.

Christian Day, one of Salem’s better known warlocks, said he shares everyone’s frustration with the impasse that has shut down a range of government programs.

“If this shutdown doesn’t end soon, the Salem witches may have to get together and do a little magic to push it along,” said Day, who despite the events 300 years earlier had just cast a spell to bring prosperity to the town.


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