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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Halloween party faces sanction

Drawing both outrage and applause, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz introduced a plan last month for this fall's annual Halloween celebration. If approved, the new plan will require a $5 entrance fee and will limit attendance on State Street to 50,000.

Cieslewicz hopes the initiative will "re-brand" Halloween as a one-night annual event, open only to those willing to pay for admission. For the past four years, the celebration — which attracts people from all over the Midwest — has ended violently with police force.

As part of the "re-branding" effort, George Twigg, communications director for the mayor, said a $5 admission fee on Saturday, Oct. 28 would allow partygoers to enjoy State Street with food and live music.


"Our hope is that as we add new things such as food, bands and the admission fee that it will start to change the nature of the event little by little," Twigg said. "We want to come up with ways to make [Halloween] more constructive and safe, but in a way young people find credible and will respond to."

Selling tickets for access to State Street would not only cover the cost of the food and entertainment, Twigg noted, but would also lighten the burden on local taxpayers.

According to Twigg, last year's Halloween celebration cost the city more than $600,000, and the $5 ticket sales are expected to cover about a third of that cost.

The plan is not yet finalized, however, as the new restrictions must be approved by the City Council.

"I think it is critical that the word get out that this [plan] is not a done deal," said Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, adding he has long been an advocate for the annual celebration. "I am not enthusiastic about the plan; however, I think it's much better to work with the mayor to improve and reform his plan than to fight it."

With the proposed changes marking a dramatic deviation from years past — when there has been no admission fee and no limit on capacity — city officials said they are not exactly sure what to expect from students.

"People pay cover for a lot of different events, and $5 is pretty minimal and modest," Twigg said. "We hope students will see this and realize it is very reasonable."

University of Wisconsin sophomore Tom Wangard, however, said the issue is not necessarily the $5 charge, but the proposed capacity limit of 50,000 for the event. And as founder of the Facebook group, "Move Halloween to Langdon 2006," it appears he is not alone.

According to Wangard, 50,000 tickets are not enough to satisfy the number of people who would like to attend the event. And so people who do not want to purchase a ticket for the event or those unable to get onto State Street will naturally overflow onto Langdon, he added.

Wangard also said many members of the Facebook group — which is continuously growing and now approaching 4,000 people — have a problem with the city limiting the number of partygoers on a public street.

"We are just looking for a secondary place for students who don't want to pay the $5 to peacefully gather and enjoy Halloween," he said.

Verveer, too, said he is more concerned with the ticket limit than the admission fee. He argues that not allowing people onto the street could create more safety issues than it would solve.

"The 50,000 cap was a number picked by the fire marshal, and I still think it's unreasonably low," Verveer said. "If there are going to be thousands of people outside the fences who can't get in, I'm concerned about what they are going to do and how they are going to do it."

Madison's Alcohol Policy Coordinator Joel Plant maintained the estimate of 50,000 people on State Street is accurate and consistent with last year's celebration. At the peak hours during Halloween on Saturday last year, Plant said there were between 40,000 and 60,000 people, mostly gathering between Library Mall and the 300 block of State Street.

"We're doing all this with student input, so we're hoping to dispel the myths," he said. "The fact is, if you actually had 70,000 people on State Street it would be just a sea of people all the way from Capitol Square to Library Mall, which was not the case."

Despite any student movements to shift the annual celebration to Langdon Street, both Twigg and Plant speculated that tradition will win out and State Street will remain the popular destination for partygoers.

"On Halloween, State Street is where people go to see and be seen," Twigg said.

Though the mayor is limiting the number of tickets sold to State Street, LaMarr Billups, senior special assistant to UW Chancellor John Wiley, said the ultimate goal is not to shut down Halloween, but to ensure that everybody makes it through the weekend safely.

With a home football game and several other sporting events also taking place Halloween weekend, he said safety becomes an even bigger and more important issue.

Billups also said that both UW and the mayor see the $5 charge as a new approach and not a permanent solution, and that the city and UW are willing to make any necessary changes should the plan cause more danger than aid.

"To call for a cancellation of Halloween is probably not that realistic," Billups said. "The goal here is to have an event and keep it safe."

Yet in order for Halloween celebrations to continue, Verveer said the important thing is for students to work with the mayor to get what they want. For the next few months, both Verveer and Ald. Austin King, District 8, will be holding meetings on campus to listen to student input and to fix any shortcomings in the mayor's plan.

According to Verveer, the admission fee will not apply to State Street residents.

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