One Freakfest-goer rocks out to his own music brought from home despite the abundance of live stages and bands, including OK Go and Little Big Town, which performed up and down State Street Saturday night and early Sunday morning. His was only one of a wide variety of spooky and creative costumes.
With the possible exception of an abundance of Waldo costumes defeating the purpose of the game “Where’s Waldo,” Madison’s Halloween weekend was a public safety and entertainment success, officials said.
Police spokesperson Joel DeSpain said arrests and major incidents for Madison’s annual Halloween celebration decreased in what police and city officials called another success.
DeSpain said 43 arrests were connected with the celebration on State Street and some surrounding side streets, a decrease from 52 arrests in 2009. Approximately 35,000 people attended the State Street event, he added.
At press time, police did not report any serious incidents on par with problems in past years, such as last year’s stabbing outside the old Madison Avenue night club on University Avenue.
DeSpain attributed the success of the event to impressive planning and a tame crowd of University of Wisconsin students and out-of-town visitors.
“Our plan worked well,” DeSpain said. “I would throw kudos the students’ way. Most of the people we saw were not intoxicated, they were just having a really good time.”
DeSpain said most of the arrests were for people drinking with open containers on the streets. Saturday night, despite the large number of people not just on State Street but also on University Avenue, was comparable to any other weekend night downtown, he added.
MPD Central District Capt. Mary Schauf also told The Badger Herald the event was a success, which has continually improved with the passing of more years.
Schauf helped lead a team of approximately 18 at a police command center on West Johnson Street staffed with 911 dispatchers, UW Police officers and several city first responders and MPD officers.
Police at the command center monitored camera feeds on State Street and University Avenue, including one temporary camera installed on the roof of The Towers.
Schauf said the lack of a significant incident was an improvement from previous events.
“People came for the entertainment, and things went well,” Schauf said. “You do want to avoid any kind of major cases. To a large degree…there’s always the potential for a problem.”
Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said the street cleaning operation began earlier this year than in the past; sweepers reportedly began work before bar time. He added the most significant incident he was familiar with was someone trying to jump onto a sweeper while people began filing out of the festival.
Frank Productions spokesperson Dave Maynard, whose company was responsible for the musical and entertainment portions of the festival, said the police attendance number was a decrease from last year.
“We probably had fewer than last year because last year was a complete anomaly with Halloween and a home football game,” Maynard said. “We were watching and people were moving around. I think people felt like there was more going on.”
Maynard also said the addition of a country-themed stage on Gilman Street, which Little Big Town headlined, was successful, along with the DJ stage which kept going until the festival ended at 1:30 a.m.
He also said stage headliner OK Go sprayed 50 pounds of confetti throughout their set, which ended approximately ten minutes early according to city officials, allowing the street sweepers to begin cleaning early.
Verveer, who has been in Madison for Halloween celebrations since his days as an undergraduate in the early 1990s, said the weekend’s festivities reminded him more of when the Halloween tradition died down in the mid-1990s compared to their resurgence in the early to mid 2000s.
“It did not seem to be as crowded on State Street as in previous years,” Verveer said. “By far this is the safest [Halloween] weekend we’ve experienced downtown in well over a decade, and that’s something we all should be very proud of.”
Overall, Verveer said he was pleased not just with the entertainment options, but also with what he said is the main attraction for Freakfest: An abundance of creative costumes.
OK Go frontman Damian Kulash echoed Verveer’s sentiments on stage Saturday night.
“Yeah,” Kulash said. “Let’s hear it for the Waldos!”