Continuing a local tradition

Four years ago, Halloween in Chapel Hill had become scarier than usual due to crowd sizes that packed people so tightly onto Franklin Street that some participants reported being lifted off their feet from the crowd swell.

At that time, I could see that in spite of our superb team of public works, public safety and transit personnel, we were losing our ability to keep people safe. We received reports of fighting, disorderly conduct, assaults, pickpocketing, intoxication and alcohol poisoning.

Some attendees appeared panicked and frightened by the density of the crowd, which was estimated at 80,000 people. These disturbing trends threatened to end a local tradition that shows off that unique part of our community character — our creativity, sense of humor and playful spirit.

Halloween on Franklin Street was never an officially sponsored town event with programmed activities. The tradition began in the mid-1980s with a few hundred residents, including students and families with children, walking the sidewalks of the 100 block of East Franklin Street in Halloween costumes. Today the event stretches into the entire downtown.

When the crowds had increased beyond a reasonable level, we arrived at a crossroads. We had to find a way to reduce the crowds and improve our management in order to keep people safe who come to our downtown.

Thanks to cooperation among Chapel Hill departments and community partners, the town successfully has reduced the size of Halloween events on Franklin Street with the introduction of a hometown emphasis. Our success would not have been possible without the collaboration and support from the University, student government and our business community. This brought us closer to a homegrown event that was safer and more manageable. We did this together as a community.

We anticipate that people will inevitably appear on Franklin Street this Halloween, but we expect there will be fewer than in years past. Please remember that prohibited items downtown include weapons, costume accessories that look like weapons, alcoholic beverages, glass bottles, paint, fireworks and explosives, flammable substances, animals and coolers. Safe Ride buses will operate from 11 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. Safe Ride is a service funded by the UNC-Chapel Hill Student Government for the safety of students.

Tonight, I hope that we continue to see the community at its best — that is, UNC students, families and residents of Chapel Hill having fun. I hope you enjoy and celebrate responsibly with a sense of hometown pride. Take care of your town, your friends and yourself. Have a happy and safe Halloween.

Thanks for reading.

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