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Madison Halloween 2007: A live account of Friday night downtown
'Cops are smiling, and a guy is walking around with a sign offering free hugs.'
'Cops are smiling, and a guy is walking around with a sign offering free hugs.'
Credit:Christopher Guess

The biggest news from the first night of this year's Halloween revelries on State Street was that nothing particularly significant happened. There were a total of 25 arrests, well under half of the number made in 2006, and the streets remained open to traffic through the entire night.

Yes, there were many people out parading in costumes, paricularly on the western end of State, and a booming party at the Orpheum Theatre, but otherwise things remained quiet. "Madison police are generally pleased with how the night before Freakfest has progressed thus far," concluded MPD spokesman Joel DeSpain in the official release about the night's events.

The Daily Page is providing regular reports over the weekend about the holiday happenings on and off State Street, along with comments from elected officials, city staff, police spokespersons, and other participants and observers in the 2006 edition of Halloween in Madison.

The live-blogging of Friday's Halloween happenings follows below.

2:07 a.m.: Joel DeSpain has released the official MPD incident report for the gatherings on State Street on Friday night and early Saturday morning. It reads:

It is early Saturday morning and Madison police have encountered few problems thus far in the night leading up to Freakfest. As of 1:00 a.m. 25 people have been arrested, most for unlawful possession of alcohol. Unlike the night before Freakfest last year State Street remains open this morning, and no area roads have had to be closed due to pedestrian traffic. Crowds on State Street have been described as "thin" by some in the command post. The most significant event for law enforcement and fire personnel was a battery to a couple of paramedics. They had picked up a drunken person who decided to throw a couple of punches inside the ambulance that was heading to a local hospital. There have also been concerns expressed by some law enforcement officers about the level of intoxication among some revelers. Several women, who appeared to be under the influence, were spotted walking alone in the campus area. That being said, Madison police are generally pleased with how the night before Freakfest has progressed thus far.
In all, the 25 arrests were only about 35% of the 68 arrested during the Friday Halloween revelries in 2006, and a mere splinter of the 178 arrested on the Friday night of the 2005 parties. Ultimately, it is a sign that Halloween on State Street is returning to a peaceable affair.

1:54 a.m.: "It's done," concludes Christopher Guess. Groups of officers are now being dismissed from the scene, and State Street is clearing out as bar time is nigh.

1:51 a.m.: Bridget Maniaci declares that State Street is "definitely hopping," on its west end from a pizza break at the Ian's on Frances. "We've got a yoko ono, a Gordon Freeman, a pregnant Marge Gunderson of Fargo, a Brian Eno, a man in black and a doctor and Marie Antoinette that are looking for pizza.

1:48 a.m.: MPD spokesman Joel DeSpain reports 25 arrests so far, a significant reduction from the figures last year. Most of the arrests were for unlawful possession of alcohol in the street, one for underage possession of alcohol, one violation of the glass-free zone, one for obstructing a police officer, and two disorderly conducts. The arrestees hail from a variety of locations: four from Madison, and one apiece from Monroe, Fort Atkinson, Monroe, and even Detroit, Michigan, among other places.

The worst incident of the night, he explains, was when a man who had passed out on the street near Cafe Montmartre was picked up by a Madison Fire Department EMT team. "He became more lucid in the ambulance on the way to the hospital," DeSpain reports, "and punched a paramedic. He is likely to be charged with battery to a firefighter."

The major public safety concern at this point, he explains, are the multiple number of young women walking alone while obviously intoxicated. "There is some concern about this following the Kelly Nolan disappearance from State Street in the summer," notes DeSpain.

Ultimately, inspection teams report that the bars remain relatively quiet, and the traffic plan remains inactive, again a sign that the party is at a much smaller scale than seen in 2006. DeSpain concludes: "There doesn't seem to be anything happening at this point."

1:33 a.m.: "Outside of Europe, that's probably the craziest club I've ever been in," says Christopher Guess about a Friday night party inside the Orpheum Theatre on State Street. He continues: "The DJ was amazing. You know the term bacchanal? It was just pure unabashed hedonism with the dancing, skin and the all-you-can drink They were dancing up front, and then all over in the actual seats,everybody was just making out. Everybody was so drunk they didn't even notice I was taking pictures of them."

As for State Street itself, the costumed revelers have cleared out significantly. "I think everybody is just going home," says Guess. "Cops are smiling, and a guy is walking around with a sign offering free hugs."

12:57 a.m.: State Street isn't the only location well-lit tonight. At the other end of the UW campus, Camp Randall Stadium was blazing with spotlights as crews prepped it for the Wisconsin football Homecoming game against Indiana on Saturday morning. A photo of the scene was shot by pseudonymous blogger "Madison Guy," who opined "it was bright enough to try counting the individual footballs in 'Nail's Tails,' the $200,000 phallic monstrosity" that stands erect at the corner of Regent Street and Breese Terrace.

12:50 a.m.: The story of the night continues to be that State Street is pretty damn quiet. "There's nothing going on," says Christopher Guess, "taxi cabs are driving up and down the street as it remains clear."

The police remain quiescent, standing around in large groups talking with one another. The larger groups of reveler remain collected at the west end of State Street, light by the spotlights in the Campus Inn parking lot. In terms of costumes, though, there's not much to catch the eye. "I have seen nothing remarkable yet this year," says Guess.

12:29 a.m.: Back at the command center at the MFD headquarters, police spokesman Joel DeSpain has issued the latest set of details in terms of policing the crowds on State Street. He reports nine arrests, mostly for citations of disorderly conduct and underage drinking. Nothing of any real consequence has occurred, he says, with the most significant disturbance being a fight at the Vintage Bar on University and Frances that ended with a broken nose.

"The latest report is that the bars on State Street are not at capacity, and some are event way below it," he says. As for house parties, the police have encountered only a handfull, all fairly small. The traffic plan has not been implemented, and it looks like there are no plans to do so at this point, a sign that the crowds are much smaller at this point than those on the Friday night of Halloween in 2006.

DeSpain also has an update on the disturbance earlier in the evening at the Dane County Coliseum. "Everything is going well there," he says, passing along information from the sheriff's office. Evidently the promoter had not yet paid the headliner of the concert -- Twista -- and he was unwilling to perform. He is now paid, though, the show has continued. "A special event team from the county was sent to there," explains DeSpain, "but they've now returned to State Street without anything of consequence happening there."

There are a few fairly intoxicated people, but this is hardly different from any given Friday night, he notes. "The crowd has been described by Captain Mary Schauf as thin, and from our perspective, things couldn't be going any better than they are."

12:17 a.m.: Across the Capitol Square, King Street is comparatively buzzing as well. The beats are thumping at the Majestic Theatre, and there are a few handfuls of people hanging out in front of the venue as well as by the door of the King Club across the street. The scene remains peaceful.

12:10 a.m.: Back on State Street, Christopher Guess reports that there's not much of a change from the scene earlier in the night. "There are more people farther up State Street than before," he says, "but that's about it." The revelers remain in good spirits, laughing and talking.

11:45 p.m.: CONTEXT clothing co-owner Ryan Huber is cleaning up the dressing rooms at the Majestic Theatre, which hosted his shop's "The Death of Fashion" runway show earlier tonight. "It was fuckin' insane," he says, reporting that the venue was filled to capacity (around 500) for the event. "It was just what I was hoping it would be."

The show lasted for about an hour, centered upon a male model flown in from Milan to anchor the runway. Entering from behind the stage onto the catwalk, he was "killed" and his expensive clothing bloodied, starting a sequence of displays centered around the concept that "you just can't kill fashion," explains Huber. The show ended with a segment titled "Night of the Living Denim," a nod to the shop's focus on high-end jeans made from the fabric, where models wore their own unwashed pairs complete with zombie make-up.

11:36 p.m.: Isthmus photographer Christopher Guess also witnessed the warriors charging up State Street. He reports that the crowd is picking up every minute, particularly along the 500 block between Gilman and Frances streets. "It's still pretty quiet, and the police are in good spirits," he says.

11:29 p.m.: Many of the police stationed on State Street tonight are not MPD officers, and are not familiar with the typical practices when it comes to traffic patterns. Earlier this evening, one pedestrian reported an officer giving her sharp words for not crossing State precisely at a crosswalk. There will be plenty more jaywalking, if one can really call it that on a pedestrian mall, before the night is over.

11:24 p.m.: "As the first evening of 07's Freakfest approaches, I can't help but wonder what costumes I'll be seeing tonight," asked Skye Kalkstein of the UW J335 Halloween coverage project. Noting the likelihood of numerous rote 'Sexy fill-in-the-blank' outfits on women and pre-made superhero outfits on men, she concludes: "I expect people put spin on some standard costumes, because creativity generates the best costumes."

11:18 p.m.: MPD spokesman Joel DeSpain is currently on State Street, checking out the scene and the trickle of costumes on parade. "Overall, all of the surrounding neighborhoods are quiet," he reports. "People are seemingly just having a good time so far." Everybody is remaining in the sidewalks so far, at least on the Capitol end of the street.

DeSpain doesn't have much more information about the trouble at the Coliseum, which he explains is directly under the jurisdiction of the Dane County Sheriff's Department. He states: "What I heard was that they didn't get enough people there and the main act [Twista] wasn't going to come out, and some of the people there weren't happy. I'm not sure what happened, but there was some kind of disturbance. There aren't any Madison police people involved, and it doesn't directly pertain to State Street, though."

Walking west towards campus, DeSpain notes that the crowds are getting larger. "There are probably several thousand folks on the campus end of State Street, where they are getting out into the road." The costume highlight so far? A horde of some three dozen Richard I-style Crusaders charging en masse up the street. "It's definitely starting to pick up."

11:10 p.m.: Who better to start with than Mike Verveer, the longtime downtown alder? "It absolutely overall is quiet. For example, they aren't even close to needing to think about implementing the traffic plan because the number of pedestrians on State Street just doesn't warrant it," he says. There are some folks in costume, though. Verveer says nothing has really jumped out at him yet, such as three separate Batmans and Evel Knievels, as well as plenty of women in "very scantily-clad outfits" of varying professions and avocations.

More seriously, there have been three arrests so far on State Street: two for disorderly conduct and one for underage drinking. There is a disturbance going on at the Dane County Coliseum, though, where there is a concert featuring Twista, Paul Wall, and T-Trell.

11:01 p.m.: It's been a very quiet evening so far. While sources report that there are numerous law enforcement offiers up and down State Street, there aren't any large groups of revelers gathering so far.

The Friday night before Halloween on State Street is traditionally a much smaller-scale event than the revelry historically seen on Saturday. That doesn't mean that all is quiet, though. The police are out in force, keeping a watch on the costumed revelers getting an early start on their weekend.

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