Chapel Hill Halloween tradition ramps up after slow start
Posted October 31, 2011
Updated November 1, 2011
Chapel Hill, N.C. — Halloween revelers in Chapel Hill trickled onto Franklin Street Monday night for the town's famed celebration, despite a rainy forecast and efforts by town officials to keep crowds down.
The street party was fairly tame, police said, compared to other years. Police arrested three people during the night, one for assault on a law enforcement officer, one for indecent exposure and one for being drunk and disruptive.
Officials estimated that about 27,000 people attended the festivities.
Strict rules requiring visitors to RSVP, limited parking access and an increase in police presence are some of the ways Chapel Hill officials planned to tone down crowds at the fourth Homegrown Halloween.
Still, several thousand students and local residents donned costumes and did the legendary party proud.
"It's going to get wild out here," said Gaston Wilson, of Raleigh.
Shonna Okada, of Sanford, has been attending the Franklin Street bash for 14 years, she said. But now, with police and town officials actively trying to keep out outsiders, she has a longer walk from her car to the party.
"It does get a little bit harder for those of us out of town to get in, but I suppose that is what they are trying to do," Okada said. "But not all of us from out of town are dangerous."
Started in 2008, the homegrown initiative is aimed at keeping Halloween in Chapel Hill a local celebration while also helping keep crowds in the small, two-block area manageable.
Crowds have decreased in its first three years, falling from 80,000 in 2007 to around 35,000 last year. The initiative has also led to fewer arrests and trips to the hospital for those attending the festivities.
In 2010 only six people were treated for alcohol related issues. In 2007, that number was 31.
But it hasn't killed the fun, at least not for UNC student Cambria Crisp.
"People are still going to dress up and act crazy," she said.
Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said the town is trying to make the event both enjoyable and safe.
"What we're trying to do is actually return it back to that safe and wonderful event that it was," he said. "When there was 80,000 people crammed into a two block area on Franklin Street I questioned whether or not it was truly a fun and safe event."
Franklin Street between Raleigh Street and Mallette Street closed Monday at 9 p.m. and reopened at 11:30 p.m. Officials said the streets were cleared of people just after midnight and reopened to traffic around 12:45 a.m. Tuesday after street crews completed cleaning.
Downtown bars and restaurants closed to new patrons at 1 a.m. and Chapel Hill police set up alcohol checkpoints throughout the downtown area.
There was little to no parking available downtown, and no place for charter buses to drop off or pick up passengers. Cars parked on the streets to be closed were towed beginning at 6 p.m.
Bill Mulligan, a Sanford resident who attended the festivities in 2010, said he didn't know why the town would try to limit something that can generate income for Chapel Hill businesses.
"To me, this is a business opportunity," he said. "If I owned a business and 80,000 people or however many show up on one day, I would stay open until they dragged the last one off."
Prohibited items in the closed area include weapons, costume accessories that look like weapons, alcoholic beverages, glass bottles, paint, fireworks and explosives, flammable substances, animals and coolers.