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35,000 costumed revelers crowd Franklin Street

Posted October 31, 2010
Updated November 1, 2010

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— About 35,000 people crowded Franklin Street in Chapel Hill for the town's annual Halloween party on Sunday night, according to police.

One citation was issued for simple possession of marijuana. Orange County Emergency Medical Services responded to seven calls, six of which were related to alcohol intoxication, and three people were taken to UNC Hospitals, police said.

"I've been here all my life – about 35 years. It's a great turnout," Chapel Hill resident Kenny Burgess said. "It's a great reflection of the energy here in Chapel Hill."

Shonna Okada, of Sanford, said she and her husband, Bill Mulligan, spend Halloween on Franklin Street every year.

"We love walking up and down and seeing all the other costumes," Okada said.

Joe Platzke drove from Virginia to take part in the fun.

"We usually go to Las Vegas and decided this was going to be a better spot," he said.

franklin Franklin Street revelers crowd the streets

The bash attracted up to 80,000 before local officials began scaling the event back two years ago for safety reasons. Last year, about 50,000 people attended the street party.

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Town officials said they used some of the same strategies this year that they employed in 2008 and 2009 to keep the crowds manageable:

  • Buses won't operate from area park-and-ride lots to downtown.
  • Streets will be closed around the downtown area, so there won't be a place to park near Franklin Street.
  • Restaurants and bars will close to new patrons at 1 a.m., and they will impose a $5 cover charge for people not attending a private event.

Police said the restrictions are necessary because of worries about binge drinking and gang activity with large crowds.

Also, the town has shelled out as much as $230,000 a year for expenses like extra police officers and EMS workers to handle the Halloween crowds.

Chapel Hill resident Holly Clark said the crowds and parking restrictions make it difficult to attend the party.

"It's hard to get in, even if you live here. You have to walk from a little bit of distance. So, I go back home and have some wine and enjoy myself," she said.

Mulligan said he doesn't understand the motivation by town leaders to try to keep the festivities limited to just residents who live nearby.

"To me, this is a business opportunity. 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," he said.

Burgess thinks the limitations are related to safety.

"I don't think they're trying to keep people out. They just want to keep it safe for the business partners, for the residents of the town," he said.


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  • mpheels Nov 1, 2010

    Yes, UNC police have extra officers on duty for Halloween. Most colleges in the US have to have extra police coverage on Halloween, it is not just a UNC thing. Everyone loves to point at UNC, but where are the comments about the cost of extra police coverage at NCSU or ECU? Even if Franklin St. remained open to vehicular traffic, there would still be larger than usual crowds downtown, more drinking than usual, and extra police needed. Halloween is not a normal night, and it will never be a normal night, just like the last day of classes or football Saturdays are not normal. UNC and Chapel Hill have two options - let things happen naturally with measures in place to keep things as safe as possible or attempt to prevent the event all together. Either way it's an expensive undertaking, but option A has the benefit of being much safer and much more fun.

  • Hammerhead Nov 1, 2010

    True anne, and the comment about CH being a zoo ( archaic thinking that it is ), just attend a basketball or football game sometime and tell me if people are act oddly during those events.

  • Hammerhead Nov 1, 2010

    Wow! Good one, WHEEL!

  • anne53ozzy Nov 1, 2010

    Come on,people. If what all of the naysayers are suggesting is true, then no college campus or major city should allow celebrations after NCAA games or any other pro sports, for that matter. Money goes into those activities as well and usually there is more damage done to property as well. It is a celebration of creativity and community and it is too bad more of you don't get it. As for the tax dollars spent, were it not for the university and those associated with it, your tax burden would be far greater to live a community that offers what this one does.

  • JustAName Nov 1, 2010

    mpheels, So, you are saying that UNC Police wouldn't have had extra people on duty, even though the town of Chapel Hill Police department did?

    You state that UNC Police wouldn't be on Franklin Street, except for the areas that are UNC's property. Which doesn't negate my point, but only backs it up. Especially stating that they work the crowd control bordering Franklin street. On a normal night, how much crowd control do they do?

    Not everyone who went to the festivities are students at UNC-Chapel Hill. It is not stated whether or not those taken to the hospital were students.

  • WHEEL Nov 1, 2010

    "hammerhead" Yeah, too bad you aren't like Jesse.

  • Go Figure Nov 1, 2010

    Oh, I miss ole Franklin Street on Halloween

  • mpheels Nov 1, 2010

    "Well, UNC Hospital is partially funded by state and federal tax dollars. I'm sure those ER visits were subsidized."

    Seeing as UNC requires all students to have health insurance, and tax subsidies generally only kick in for the uninsured, I'm pretty sure the ER visits were paid for and then some.

    "Since Franklin street is pretty much a part of UNC's campus, any campus police on patrol are paid for by the university, which is subsidized by state tax dollars."

    Franklin St. in NOT part of campus. UNC Police and CHPD have a strong working relationship, but UNC Police do not have jurisdiction on Franklin St (except for specific UNC owned or leased properties). They work crowd control and security on campus bordering Franklin, but their work load would be more or less the same even if the street stayed open to vehicular traffic.

  • Hammerhead Nov 1, 2010

    "Jesse Helms said the State didn't need a zoo, just build a fence around Chapel Hill. That statement is still valid many years later."
    Too bad we aren't all like Jesse, this would be one great country ( sarcasm ).

  • WHEEL Nov 1, 2010

    "mggratk" Skipping your ESL classes again aren't you?