Local News

Chapel Hill tries to spread word about smaller Halloween party

Posted October 29, 2008 5:49 p.m. EDT
Updated October 29, 2008 6:38 p.m. EDT

— Town officials are using the Internet and other means to get the word out that Friday night's Halloween celebration on Franklin Street won't be the same bash as in years past.

More than 80,000 people crammed Franklin Street last year, and the town spent about $221,000 for security, cleanup, crowd control, emergency medical care and other expenses.

Merchants in Chapel Hill said they aren't really fans of the Halloween event, with many noting in a recent survey that their businesses have been damaged by the crowds in years past. The feedback prompted town officials to try to scale back this year's event on public safety grounds.

Officials plan to restrict nearby parking, reroute traffic around downtown and eliminate shuttle buses from remote park-and-ride lots. Bars and convenience stores also have agreed to stop selling alcohol at 1 a.m., an hour earlier than normal.

"We've never taken out a single advertisement to promote this event," town spokeswoman Catherine Lazorko said.

The event grew by word of mouth, so officials are hoping to shrink it the same way. They are using a Facebook page and a YouTube.com video to communicate with college students and young adults who get their information from non-traditional sources.

"It's experimental, and we are kind of testing it to see how it goes," Lazorko said. "This is really an important week to get the word out."

Officials also have called charter bus services who traditionally drop people off at the event to suggest they stay away.

"There will be no place for these buses to park or to let out," Lazorko said.

The message has gotten through at Duke University, where student leaders stopped a shuttle service to Chapel Hill this Halloween.

Duke students said they hope to expand their own celebration, called Devil's Eve.

"They are kind of expanding what they usually do because it used to be kind of a pre-going-to-Chapel-Hill event, and now it is the main event itself," said Jordan Giordano, president of Duke Student Government.

Not everyone plans to play by Chapel Hill's new rules.

"I have some friends who go to school in Greensboro, and I think they are planning on coming anyway," said Kellen Carpenter, a University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill alumnus.

"Anytime an authority figure is, like, 'Hey, don't do that, bad college students or bad high school students,' that just makes people want to do it more," UNC student Chris Hartle said.