More than 35,000 costume-clad students, residents and visitors packed State Street Saturday for Freakfest, which Madison officials reported was safer and better attended than in past years.
According to a report from the Madison Police Department, Freakfest attendance was up from last year’s event, which saw about 33,000 people.
Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, who filled in as acting mayor for Mayor Paul Soglin, said the atmosphere was great for the party on State Street which drew significant crowds for musical guests Matt & Kim and Chiddy Bang.
“I thought [Freakfest] was a success,” Resnick said. “It was a different tone to the event that was overall positive.”
As of Sunday morning, 28 arrests were made at or in connection with Freakfest, Resnick said. The majority of the arrests were not of a serious nature, he said, as most were for underage drinking and public urination.
Last year saw 36 arrests, and 32 in 2011, according to police reports. Police statements back to 2009 report overall safe Freakfests, with generally low arrest counts.
“Historically, this was received as a much safer event compared to years of 2005 or 2006 and obviously from the 80s and 90s, when the night would end in riots,” Resnick said. “We saw nothing like that [Saturday] night and overall I heard quite a bit of positive feedback.”
Resnick said Freakfest was a safe event this year in part because of the combined efforts of the Madison Fire Department, Dane County Sheriff’s Department and the Capitol, Fitchburg and University of Wisconsin police departments.
Fred Frank, president of Frank Productions—which hosted the event—said he was happy with Freakfest this year. Frank said he watched Freakfest from video feeds in an event control center with city officials, and everything went exactly as planned.
“We are ecstatic,” Frank said. “Anytime you get more than 30,000 people and you only got 25 people arrested, that’s a really good percentage.”
Frank said while the event was similar to last year’s Freakfest, people arrived earlier than usual to secure good spots at the music stages. He also said the crowds were bigger in front of stages than in previous years. He attributed the attendance increase to the “big names” that performed, compared to more local groups that have performed at the event in the past.
Frank added more than 1,000 people attended the inaugural VIP Party event at the Orpheum Theater, and students received the music at the new WSUM 91.7 stage well.
“People definitely came out not only to show off their costumes, but they really came out for the music,” Frank said.
Some popular costumes included the gang from television show Duck Dynasty, the ever popular Waldo of “Where’s Waldo,” Miley Cyrus and the news team from the movie “Anchorman.” Becca Rodriguez, a UW freshman, said she spent hours blowing up balloons to complete her “bubbles” costume. She was accompanied by a group of friends clad as loofahs.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Rodriquez said of her first Freakfest. “We’ve been seeing some pretty cool costumes. I guess now we’re gonna walk down State Street and just see what happens.”
Peter Held, also a freshman at his first Freakfest, dressed in a homemade shower costume. He and fellow freshman Diego Villarreal said they made the costume at the last minute as an ode to Kronshage Residence Hall’s Showerman House where they live.
Held and Villarreal said they were excited to see musical guests Matt & Kim and Chiddy Bang. They said they planned to stay until the end of the concerts.
“I’m gonna stay here as long as I can because everyone’s having fun here, and it’s an opportunity I want to be at,” Held said. “Everyone here is so welcoming and being so nice.”
Frank said he was happy with the event as a whole. He added he is excited it seemed students received it so well.
He said this is the seventh year of the partnership between Frank Productions and the city, and he believes Freakfest has grown to be something students, residents and city officials can enjoy.
“I think it’s been a really good thing for the city, and a really good thing for the students,” Frank said. “I think the majority of the students accept it, and it’s really a win-win for everyone.”