Tuesday, October 31, 2006

All Hallows Eve

I realize I've been a slacker as far as updating everyone on my life..not a whole lot to report just now. We went to Gatlinburg 2 weekends ago and had LOTS of fun and laughs, then went to a family reunion this past weekend. I'll give details another time, but right now I want to discuss Halloween. I have to work it...again. This is my 6th Halloween here and I've only had 2 of them off. Here's the news article to explain it since it does a better job than I could.

Fright night on Franklin Street: a haunting tradition on Chapel Hill's main drag

Oct 30, 2006 : 8:17 pm ET

CHAPEL HILL -- Police Chief Gregg Jarvies can remember his first Halloween on Franklin Street. It was 1972, and he was a UNC student.

"Halloween mostly consisted of costume parties at the local bars and fraternities and dorms," Jarvies recalled. "The people in costumes on Franklin Street would just be there because they were walking home."

These days, Halloween on Franklin Street is far more than just students walking to or from parties. It's the party itself.

Tonight, about 50,000 people are expected to gather in the street for the annual spectacle. It's not an event the town or university set up. It just kind of, well, happens.

"There's no advertising done for it," said Robert Humphreys, a longtime Chapel Hill resident and the executive director of the now-disbanded Downtown Commission. "In fact, the only advertising that is done for it would seem to discourage people from attending, explaining they have to park far away and ride a bus in. But it doesn't.

" No other event -- except, perhaps, for UNC men's basketball championship celebrations -- draws so many people to Franklin, Chapel Hill's main street. Yet longtime residents and officials are unsure exactly how Halloween got so big, or what the draw is.

As Jarvies noted, people, mainly students, first began gathering on Franklin in the 1970s and 1980s, more as a means of getting to and from parties than anything else.

Humphreys was in the Jaycees, and would walk home from volunteering at a haunted house they organized.

"We noticed there were a lot of people on the street in costume," he said. "We thought, 'Wow, this is kind of cool.'

"Apparently, a lot of folks shared that sentiment.

As the population of Chapel Hill grew, so did the crowds on Franklin. People learned that downtown was the place to see the most interesting costumed characters.

By the mid-1980s, people started gathering on the sidewalks about 9 or 10 p.m., and those in costumes would parade down the street, Jarvies said. Back then, of course, people would remain mostly on the sidewalk, he added.

By 1990, the Chapel Hill Police Department was sending extra officers to Franklin to keep the crowds out of the street. A year or two later, police barricaded off parked cars to prevent rowdy revelers from damaging them. Soon after, the police prohibited parking on Franklin on Halloween night.

Then, by the early- to mid-1990s, the police were closing off a portion of the street altogether.

"We actually had to block traffic," Jarvies said. "The crowds got so big we could not keep them out of traffic anymore."

Since then, the number of people coming downtown has grown and grown. In 2003, when the holiday was on a Friday, around 60,000 came to Franklin for a party that lasted until past 2 a.m.

About seven or eight years ago, Jarvies said, MTV named Chapel Hill one of the top places to be on Halloween.

Every year since, people come from across North Carolina and surrounding states to visit Franklin. Busloads of students from other colleges show up each year.

This year, police expect around 50,000, and have planned for a record 400 officers to provide security.

For the first time, police on horses and motorbikes will patrol, and a longer stretch of Franklin -- between Roberson and Raleigh streets -- will be closed. Shuttles from four park-and-ride lots will take busloads of people downtown.

The police are setting up checkpoints, and any part of a costume that could be used as a weapon is forbidden.

The celebration has evolved into a two-fold event. In the first part of the evening, families tend to gather on the sidewalk, watching the beginnings of the crowd form. But as the night goes on, the children go home and the street becomes filled with university students and out-of-town visitors. The crowds, at times, have grown so big that people can barely walk.

Jarvies said he thinks the number of people has leveled out. But police expect more in two years, he said, because Halloween will be on a Thursday, traditionally a party night for college students. Despite some violence in recent years, for Humphreys, it's all in good fun.

"I've only missed one in 25 years," he said. "I hated to miss it, but I was on a cross-country trek."

Tonight, we've had 11 EMS calls back to back...all for alcohol poisoning and a drunk girl who fell and busted her face. We have no more EMS units to send..they're all on calls. So, we keep getting calls for EMS and have no one to send..sooo..the officers are yelling at us b/c EMS hasn't gotten there, like it's my fault or something. We also had a foot pursuit.

I can't forget to mention that tonight they wanted to switch over to the 800 mgh radio system. They gave them to the officers on Franklin St. and gave us a handheld radio to monitor, but never bothered teaching us how the radio's operate. All the regular shift officers are still on our old system...so they have no way to talk to the guys who are out on Franklin St. Nice, huh? While I've been typing, we've had 3 more EMS calls, a fire alarm, a fight in progress and so much garbled radio traffic I have no idea if I have everyone where they need to be. There's also the issue of all the streets being blocked off around Franklin creating a crapload of detours and traffic nightmares.

Last year, they said that would be the last year. 70,000 people + alcohol ended with stabbings, shootings, muggings, etc. I'm not sure why they expect less people this year, but they more than doubled the amount of officers out there and only gave us one more person. Three people in here to handle 50+ officers, 25 security guards, 5 parking control guys and 20 hired security monitors on only 3 frequencies..on 2 different separate radio systems. Sigh...and the shift is only half over.

No comments: