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Changes coming to Chapel Hill's Halloween bash

Ghosts and goblins take over Franklin Street every Halloween, but it is not the spooky costumes causing the scare for some Chapel Hill business owners.

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — A campaign is being launched to scale back Chapel Hill's Halloween bash. Last year's event on Franklin Street attracted about 82,000 revelers. That is about 28,000 more than the town's population.

Town leaders say there is growing concern about binge drinking, crime and gang activity at the annual celebration. So a new "Homegrown Halloween" campaign aims to make the event safer and return it to its roots as a small-town community gathering.

"Halloween has grown to the point that it is now painting this town in a negative light,” business owner Jared Resnick said.

Town leaders hope two changes this year will scare some revelers away.

  • 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.

“I think it's wise. I know it costs the town a lot of money to handle the event. Something smaller and lower key would make a lot of sense,” Chapel Hill resident Tom Davis said.

The celebration, which is not a town-sponsored event, cost taxpayers $221,000 last year. The money went toward employing 400 law enforcement officers, clean-up crews and emergency medical personnel. However, some people worry that scaling back the celebration will be bad for business.

"That just means that all those businesses are going to take a serious loss. Because not only is it one of their big events, but it's a Friday night and that's when they make most of their money,” Chapel Hill resident Caitlin Walsh said.

“It's very well-known. And I think that anything that can get your area and school known can be a good thing,” Chapel Hill resident Quintin Byrd said.

Police arrested 13 people at last year's celebration. Emergency Medical Services responded to 31 calls and took eight people to the hospital. Workers said 21 of the calls were related to intoxication.

Town leaders are expected to make a decision about alcohol sales at this year's event by Oct. 15.


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