Triangle revelers celebrate Halloween
Posted October 31, 2008 5:08 p.m. EDT
Updated November 1, 2008 12:07 a.m. EDT
Chapel Hill, N.C. — Costumed revelers roamed Franklin Street in Chapel Hill on Friday amid a lighter crowd than years past, officers said.
The event began with few patrons but the crowd started to thicken around 10 p.m. causing police to close the road. Officers close the street to traffic when the amount of partiers cannot fit on the sidewalk.
Police said they believed the crowd would not reach last year's total of more than 80,000 people.
City officials were hoping for a scaled back crowd after spending about $221,000 for security, cleanup, crowd control, emergency medical care and other expenses last year.
“They’re trying to quiet things down this year, but it’s still pretty crazy,” party-goer Stefanie Adams said.
Earlier in the day, Chapel Hill Police Capt. Chris Blue said officers were removing newspapers from their boxes and greasing poles.
“We do collect anything that is flammable or that can be used as a weapon,” Blue said. “Sometimes in big events like this we have people climb up trees and poles. That can be dangerous, obviously.”
More than 400 officers were duty at the street party, officials said. About 370 were on the street and the rest handled traffic control.
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 restricted nearby parking, rerouted traffic around downtown and eliminated 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. The Highway Patrol also has checkpoints on roads leading into the event.
“If you are coming from out of town, you will find traffic gridlock. You will not find a place to park,” Blue said.
Officials also have called charter bus services who traditionally drop people off at the event to suggest they stay away.
The message has gotten through at Duke University, where student leaders stopped a shuttle service to Chapel Hill this Halloween. Duke students said hoped to expand their own celebration, called Devil's Eve.
Town leaders said they will try to reopen Franklin Street around midnight.
With traffic gridlock expected near Franklin Street, some people headed to the Haunted Hike along Hillsborough Street in Raleigh.
“We heard so much about how they’re going to shut off roads and stop the bus routes to Franklin Street. So, we figured it would be easier to come out here and have fun rather than deal with all the traffic,” N.C. State Student Brian Ford said.
Last year’s event attracted more than 3,000 North Carolina State University students and Raleigh residents. This year, local businesses have prepared by decorating and hiring extra security.
“This is the second one. A lot more people know about it. They’ll get into it. I think it’ll be a lot more popular this year and in coming years,” N.C. State Student Alexander Manasa said.
N.C. State police said the crowd Friday night was about the same as last year. Only a handful of citations were issued for open containers and underage drinking. One person was cited for DWI.
City officials don't endorse the event and have no plans to close any streets to traffic to make way for revelers. Still, the Raleigh Police Department and the N.C. State campus police plan to step up patrols to maintain order. Officers will be checking the identification of drivers who go through the campus.
Bars on the street plan to stay open but many restaurants closed early.