Franklin Street saw about 30 percent fewer visitors this year in the town’s third consecutive effort to scale back Halloween celebrations.
“It’s a combination of it being a Sunday night, as we anticipated, the work week beginning on Monday,” said Lt. Kevin Gunter, Chapel Hill police spokesman.
Gunter said it’s difficult to pinpoint what exactly contributed to the smaller crowd of 35,000, but the public awareness campaign likely helped.
“The message has been consistent the past three years, we’re trying to reduce the crowd,” he said. “Thirty-five thousand is still a lot. We’d still like the reduce down from that.”
Last year, the town recorded about 50,000 visitors to the downtown celebration, a figure that was up 15,000 from 2008 and forced town officials to re-evaluate their Homegrown Halloween strategy.
Homegrown Halloween was introduced in 2008 by Town Manager Roger Stancil. The effort involves the collaboration of town, University and business leaders to improve safety and reduce crowd sizes after more than 80,000 party-goers attended the celebration in 2007.
Gunter said one citation was issued for possession of marijuana, and EMS officials had responded to five alcohol overdoses as of 11:45 p.m.
Around 318 officers were on hand to help handle the crowd, Gunter said.
Officials had hoped to start clearing the street at 11:30 p.m. this year, but the crowd continued to amble until around 11:40 p.m., when motorcycles, walking officers and public works vehicles were used to drive pedestrians to the sidewalks.
It was firefighter Gerry Boone’s tenth Halloween. He and firefighter Wayne Cheek, who manned their utility task vehicle in the University Square parking lot, said the crowd didn’t appear to be as big as in past years.
“Everything seems to be right in line with my expectations,” Boone said.
He said although the fire department has been using the utility task vehicles for around five years, the department added more units this Halloween for the ability to navigate the crowd.
The event inspired group costuming — from Chilean coal miners to a group of squirrels and a stump.
Sophomore Alex Exum, who was dressed as a wizard, said he didn’t mind leaving early, and he thought the extra precautions taken by the town and police were helpful in keeping everyone safe.
“I like that they blocked off Franklin Street,” he said. “And I like that officials are keeping everyone’s safety in mind as a first priority.”
Sophomore Hannah Leonard, who was in costume as a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, said the night lived up to her expectations, but that Homegrown Halloween is still a work in progress.
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