Starting at 9 p.m., the town will close off downtown roads, including parts of Franklin, Columbia, Raleigh and Henderson streets, to ensure pedestrian safety during the three-hour celebration.
Lt. Joshua Mecimore, spokesman for the Chapel Hill Police Department, said there haven’t been any major issues in the past few years, and he doesn’t expect any this year.
“We expect that folks will continue to act responsibly and respectfully,” Mecimore said.
Officials are striving to limit attendees to students and local residents.
“We try to discourage folks from out of town from coming because there’s no parking, there’s no shuttle buses, there’s no transportation for that,” he said. “This is meant to be a hometown Halloween event, not one for folks who are from outside of the town.”
The town started Homegrown Halloween in 2008, when it managed to reduce the crowd size by more than half. In 2007, about 80,000 people participated in the event. The next year, only 35,000 attended.
Though there is no way of knowing how big the crowd will become tonight, Mecimore said it might be larger than it was in 2013, when 30,000 people descended on Franklin Street.
“We are certainly planning for the possibility that there might be a slightly larger crowd because it’s a Friday night, but we have no way to know what that might actually be,” he said.
Some businesses on Franklin Street said they’ll welcome the larger crowds.
Chris Carini, owner of Linda’s Bar & Grill on Franklin Street, said Chapel Hill’s Homegrown Halloween used to be a cool destination for visitors, but now that it caters specifically to residents and students, there are far fewer people.
“You can imagine, businesses used to do fantastic on those nights and now we’re doing less than half of what that was when it was very, very good,” Carini said. “So basically just another busy night for us — nothing special like it used to be.”
As it has in previous years, the town is encouraging downtown restaurants and bars to close their doors to new customers at 1 a.m., though, legally they’re still able to stay open later.
Lauren Shoaf, sales manager for Fitzgerald’s Irish Pub at 206 W. Franklin St., said the restaurant will still be open on Halloween night.
“Last year was the first time we were open for Halloween, and it was definitely a busy night, and so we are expecting the same this year, even more since it’s a Friday,” she said. “We are expecting more business throughout the weekend than a normal weekend.”
One of the police department’s main concerns is overconsumption of alcohol. The department will have about 400 police officers at the event and alcohol checkpoints as well as DWI enforcement will be in place, according to a town press release.
Mecimore said the cost of managing this year’s event should be close to 2013 expenses, which totaled $188,310.
“I would expect this year to be somewhere in line with that, probably slightly more because we have some more resources available knowing that there’s the possibility that the crowd size might be larger because of it being on a Friday,” he said.