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Chapel Hill wants smaller, 'homegrown' Halloween

Posted October 4, 2008

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— Halloween along Franklin Street will be less of a large party packed with revelers and more of a small-town celebration, if a campaign launched by town leaders succeeds.

Town leaders want to brand the Franklin Street celebration as "Homegrown Halloween" and reduce the crowd size, Town Manager Roger L. Stancil said.

"We're determined to put, and with such a large crowd that has become almost impossible," Stancil said. "The possibility for serious injury and worse tragedy draws nearer every year."

In 2007, about 82,00 people attended – more than Chapel Hill's population of 54,000 and up from 70,000 the year before. The town spent $221,000 to employ 400 law enforcement officers, clean-up crews and emergency medical personnel.

Stancil said that such crowds could present other public-safety problems, including property damage, crowd panic and larger civil disorders.

Town officials were also concerned about alcohol poisoning and gang-related violence, the town manager said.

So far, the town has adopted two changes for Halloween on Franklin Street:

  • Chapel Hill Transit buses will no longer provide shuttle services to the downtown from area Park and Ride lots.
  • A traffic diversion plan will limit access to the downtown area by reducing lanes on Raleigh Road/N.C. Highway 54, Martin Luther King Drive and East Franklin Street.

Town leaders have also considered limiting or banning alcohol sales in the area.To restrict alcohol sales, the mayor must declare a state of emergency.

Officials were discussing the issue with bar and restaurant owners and plan to make a decision by Oct. 15.

Alcohol has always been banned from the festival area.

A survey in which nearly a third of downtown business owners reported that a negative impact from the celebration has in part motivated the plans to scale down Halloween on Franklin Street. Sixty-four percent of owners also said their businesses were damaged from the revelry.

Town officials said the ultimate goal is to get Chapel Hill's Halloween celebration back to its roots as a small community festivity.

"Halloween on Franklin Street in no longer an event that reflects the character of our great community," Mayor Kevin Foy said.

"It will take time to return Halloween on Franklin Street to the family friendly, grassroots celebration that it once was. We are embarking on a multiyear effort, but it is well worth our efforts to improve safety."


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