Group wants Chapel Hill out of Halloween festival business
Posted November 3, 2011
Chapel Hill, N.C. — A community group wants Chapel Hill to stop spending money on the annual Halloween festival on Franklin Street downtown.
The Coalition for Alcohol- and Drug-Free Teenagers says the Halloween bash started years ago as a town-sponsored event for local families but has, over time, become a raucous night for college students and outsiders.
"(It has) morphed into a costumed drunk-fest for many celebrants," Dale Pratt-Wilson, director of the coalition, said in a statement. "With alcohol-fueled misbehaviors, a significant component – families – were largely forced away, replaced mostly by a collegiate crowd from throughout the region. It's no longer a suitable place for young children or families."
Pat Burns, a retired Chapel Hill police officer and the law enforcement liaison for the group, said fights, indecent exposure, assaults on women, public urination and vomiting have become common at the Halloween festival.
"Arrests and emergency medical interventions always occur," Burns said in a statement.
Police charged a man with a history of peeping convictions with trying to videotape under women's costumes at Monday night's festival.
Chapel Hill spends about $200,000 for police, paramedics and street crews for the event.
"The Town Council should not be supporting any event that allows, condones or enables excessive drinking, particularly among so many underage participants," Pratt-Wilson said. "As a matter of public policy and responsible financial stewardship, (the) council can no longer rationally justify the expenditure of our reduced or limited revenues to support this brief, but costly annual event."
Chapel Hill has taken steps in recent years to cut back on the Halloween festivities by shutting down streets and closing off available parking near downtown, making it difficult for people outside the town to attend. About 35,000 people participated in Monday's event, down from about 80,000 four years ago.
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," Kleinschmidt 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."
Pratt-Wilson said the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill should consider moving the festival onto campus and picking up the tab.