For years, the University of Wisconsin was famous across the country for its annual Halloween celebration.
But in recent years, the event has gained more attention for lacking crowds, tear gas and controversy, leaving many to believe Freakfest no longer lives up to the hype.
Partygoers have become less interested in paying an admission fee to get on State Street for Halloween over the past few years, including UW senior Spencer Rohn.
“In 2005, students had a lot more freedom to do what they wanted,” Rohn said. “Ever since then, not as many been interested in going to State Street.”
However, with that freedom, students in the often ended the weekend with tear gas, riot gear and hundreds of arrests.
In 2004, police estimated as many as 75,000 people flooded State Street and at the end of the night a riot started. This marked the third year in a row the party had gotten out of control, with participants taunting police and starting small fires.
Police last used tear gas to disperse the crowd at the end of the night in 2005 – the first year on campus for most UW seniors.
“The crowd was pretty well under control,” UW senior Dave Lidner said. “I think they could use different methods to get people off the street.”
Lidner said he has no plans to go to State Street this year and neither do his friends, partly because the increase in ticket prices.
In 2006, Frank Productions began managing the event by bringing in entertainment and charging $5 to get onto State Street.
UW junior Maggie Eaton remembered paying $5 her freshmen year to see only a few small bands.
This year, tickets to get into Freak Fest are $10 the night of and $7 if purchased in advance, and O.A.R. will be the headlining band the event.
Dave Maynard of Frank Productions said the first year they managed Freakfest, in 2007, Lifehouse was the major musical entertainment.
“It was the best gig they had ever played,” Maynard said Lifehouse had told him.
Several students see the entertainment as an attempt to continue to draw crowds, but students, like Rohn, still don’t want to pay to get on State Street.
“The concerts will draw large crowds but Halloween definitely does not have the same reputation,” Rohn said.
Joel DeSpain spokesperson for Madison Police, said due to the large number of people that come to State Street, the police force will maintain their presence
“Halloween is a changed event, but still a very popular event” Joel DeSpain, spokesperson for Madison Police.
DeSpain said Halloween does benefit the city by attracting large crowds to city hotels, bars and restaurants. He added that in the past Halloween had been very unstructured, causing problems .
“We could not have gone on with Halloween the way it was, with the vandalizing of store front windows and the fires,” DeSpain said. “It was a national embarrassment for the University and Madison.