Of Madison's 41,000 students, most everyone is undoubtedly pondering this year's impending Halloween celebration.

The celebration, which has involved more than 70,000 partiers in past years, has contributed greatly to the University of Wisconsin's former status as "No. 1 Party School." While this event is the highlight of the year for many, the tremendous number of attendees has resulted in property damage in recent years, causing the city to deploy police officers clad in riot gear to contain the drunken mobs with tear gas and pepper spray.

Because of these events, the newest incarnation of the State Street Halloween celebration, dubbed "Freakfest," will be more controlled by the city. Revelers will have to buy a $5 ticket to be on State Street between 7:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. Saturday night.

The city has entertainment planned as well, with a food court on Library Mall and two music stages hosting performances throughout this time. The lineup features both local and national bands, including Madison-based hip-hop group the Crest, Chicago pop-rock outfit Plunket and Long Beach funk/jam band Delta Nove. Ten bands in all will be playing at the stages, which are located on the corner of Gorham Street and the corner of Capitol Square and State Street.

For those seeking to avoid the annual State Street havoc or just the $5 price tag, other options are available across campus.

If you're looking for something to do tonight, let the ghouls and ghosts of the Saddle & Sirloin student organization's haunted house rattle your nerves for a good cause. Located in the Old Horse Barn just west of Babcock Hall on Elm Drive, this event runs from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., although the event is more family-oriented for the first hour. Though the monsters in this house are frightening, the cost for this event is nothing to be afraid of; only $1 or a canned good gains you admission. All proceeds from the haunted house will go to benefit the Second Harvest Food Bank, allowing guests to contribute to charity while enjoying a good scare.

If you're in the mood for something with less spookiness but just as much fun, check out the Halloween Party and Creature Contest in the Union South Games Room Saturday night. For the same ticket price as Freakfest, attendees receive free bowling, pool, table tennis, popcorn and candy. In addition to unlimited games, the Creature Contest gives attendees a chance to show off their best costumes and have a good laugh in the process. Winners receive one of several hilarious prizes ranging from cheesy '70s horror flick "Frogs" to a plastic skull mug. The bash lasts from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., but partygoers may want to arrive early in case lanes and tables fill up.

Yet another alternative to Freakfest is Runaway Productions Halloween 2006, the first event of its kind to be held at Madison Avenue. Runaway Productions, a company run by UW students, organized this 18-and-up event with Sony/BMG Music Records and CO-ED Magazine to provide an alternative environment for those in search of a riot-free good time. According to Managing Partner Daniel Reich, the Halloween 2006 event was created as a "legitimate venue so people can party in a safe, controlled environment." Instead of wandering around aimlessly amid the drunken antics of State Street, students will have the opportunity to dance to their favorite artists at the dance club on University Avenue.

Runaway Productions intends to appeal to all sorts of listeners with a variety of musical acts. Hip-hop, reggae and rock fill the bill with artists including Golden, Collie Buddz, Fahrenheit and Displace. Also performing is special guest Sa-Ra from Kanye West's record label GOOD. The event runs tonight and tomorrow, and attendees can purchase tickets from ExchangeHut.com.

For those students over 21, High Noon Saloon is hosting its annual Halloween Party with Maximum Ink and WORT tomorrow night beginning at 10 p.m. For a $6 cover, attendees can participate in a costume contest and listen to tribute bands dedicated to Judas Priest, the Misfits, Danzig and Suicidal Tendencies, as well as Yarrr!!!, who plays "classic pirate rock from the high seas."

State Street is clearly no longer the only option for those wanting to experience Madison's Halloween festivities. Make a stop at the Saddle & Sirloin Haunted House, play pool with your friends at Union South's Halloween party, dance all night to great music at Halloween 2006 in Madison Avenue or thrash to metal music at the High Noon Saloon. Whether you wander around Freakfest or attempt to win that skull mug at the Creature Contest, make sure to be safe and have a frighteningly good time.