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University Reports Calm Halloween Festivities

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The annual Athens Halloween block party came and went without major difficulty this year as the trend of increasingly mellow celebrations continued.

The city of Athens released arrest numbers roughly equal with last year, indicating that the party on Court Street and joining areas has been more controlled. Each year, police presence and awareness has thickened and Halloween has fully adopted the more positive “block party” title.

Ohio University Police Chief Andrew Powers described the weekend by saying it “went well” and that “there were no major problems.” However, he went on to say there were the standard number of arrests for disorderly conduct and underage drinking.

Powers described a low-key vibe in the festivities.

“This is only my fourth Halloween here in Athens, so I don’t have a huge basis, but I’d say overall attendance might have been a little lower. Arrests were about the same, but that’s mostly due to the sheer amount of people in town,” said Powers. “The block party went off without any significant issues.”

The Athens Police responded to 71 requests for assistance during the 12-hour window beginning at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, but only 49 arrests were filed, 24 being for “Disorderly by Intoxication.” Athens County Emergency Medical Services responded to 34 calls, with 25 needing transportation to the Emergency Room.

One explanation for more mild Halloweens is the event’s increasing institutionalization. While Ohio University does not formally sponsor or endorse the annual celebrations, they’ve taken steps in recent years to treat the event with a surprising amount of normalcy. Parking and visitor restrictions have allowed the university to control what it can while it quietly acknowledges the party’s reputation of being uncontrollable.

In recent years, the university has ramped up partnerships with the city and its organizations to acknowledge the university’s party reputation and respectfully attempt to shift that image.

For example, in 2011 Ohio University was ranked the nation’s No. 1 party school by Princeton Review, but has since lost that ranking, perhaps thanks to some efforts from the administration.

The citizenry of Athens has numerous volunteers to watch the greens and make sure that OU’s property stays safe and undamaged as the party continues uptown.

Furthermore, the tone of the celebration has changed. The party can no longer be considered a “riot” in any literal sense with the Athens Fire Department receiving no major phone calls. The stages for live music erected at either end of Court Street help organize what used to be considered chaos.

The history of Halloween in Athens is long and conflicted. Beginning in 1974 as a sort of impromptu riot/party that began as students trapped a semi-truck on Court Street, Halloween has been a thorn in Athens’ side for almost 40 years. In 1977, Athens City Council formally closed the street and endorsed the “official Halloween celebration.”

Over the following years, disputes from the Athens Police Department as well as from Ohio University’s administration arose. In 1980, 222 people were arrested over Halloween weekend. Despite efforts by the newly formed Clean and Safe Halloween Committee to tranquilize the festivities, a fire, which was later found to be arson, broke out at Peden Stadium in 1985.

Halloween in Athens became permanently official in 1990 leading to some slightly subdued parties. However, by 1997, The Athens Halloween party was at its largest ever, with over 30,000 attendees and a record 318 arrests. Since the turn of the century, the party has remained relatively constant, with rarely more than 100 arrests.

In 2008, the city attempted to corral drinkers by hosting a beer garden with mixed results. President Roderick McDavis began his time here by saying he wished to “diffuse” the event, but just this past weekend, still with over 15,000 participants, he has described it as “a peaceful, happy night.”

 

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