Local News

35,000 costumed revelers crowd Franklin Street

Posted October 31, 2010 4:23 p.m. EDT
Updated November 1, 2010 6:02 a.m. EDT

— 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.

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.

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.