For the second consecutive year, the Halloween festivities on State Street have concluded peacefully. Following a long night of revelry and music in the gated area in downtown Madison, the city, law enforcement, and event organizers have declaree Freakfest 2007 to be a success.
"This was the most successful Halloween on State Street in several years," concluded Mayor Dave Cieslewicz in his final statement regarding the event. "The gating and ticketing strategy we started last year has resulted in a whole new tone for the event. Halloween in Madison has been transformed in a positive way."
A total of about 34,000 tickets were sold for the party, which ran from 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 27 through 1:30 a.m. on Sunday, October 28, and featured three stages of music. This figure is roughly equivalent to the number of revelers seen in 2006.
Meanwhile, police reported a total of 108 arrests by the close of the event, a significant reduction from the 143 persons arrested last year. As is regularly the case with Halloween on State Street, the majority were made for alcohol-related citations.
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 Freakfest 2007 follows below.
2:55 a.m.: Joel DeSpain has released the official MPD incident report on this year's Freakfest. It read:
Freakfest 2007 has just culminated and Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and Madison Police Chief Noble Wray want to thank the more than 34,000 who purchased tickets for the way they conducted themselves. Freakfest went extremely well, and another very positive step has been taken in making this a celebration for which the community can be proud. As of 2:00 a.m. 120 arrests had been made, most for alcohol violations. That compares with 148 arrests during Freakfest 2006, and 334 that were made in 2005 during the Saturday night party. Combining Friday and Saturday night arrests there were 175 this year compared to 235 in 2006. No serious property damage or serious injuries were reported as of this writing, and it is hoped the event will continue to improve in 2008. For details, and interviews on Freakfest reporters are urged contact the promoter -- Frank Productions. Again a big thanks to the UW students and other revelers who helped make this such a great success.
2:41 a.m.: Mike Verveer is now on State Street having spent the last portion of the party inside The Plaza Tavern. He notes that the street sweepers are out, only one of the stadium light sets remains on to assist with the clean-up, and all of the private security guards are leaving en masse. "They did a much better job compared to last year's fiasco," he says. The police are packing up too, and everything is shutting down for the night.
"I'm quite relieved that we got through another Halloween," says Verveer. "It seems like everybody had a good time, and I barely heard any complaints." He also is pleased that the corporate sponsorship presense at the party wasn't overpowering, with the signs limited to the stages.
Is Halloween in Madison shedding its stigma? "We're getting there," replies Verveer. "We have quite a legacy dating back to 1977. A lot of us remember the dyas when there were 100,000 plus people here, and then the recent disturbances are fresh in our minds as well. One of the things that pleases me is that it seems like there were a lot more people on the street this year compared to last, and I received fewer comments from people that they were staying away. This thing would be a bust if UW students didn't buy into it, but I think they took part in greater numbers this year."
2:32 a.m.: The party is officially over. At the last briefing of the night, notes police spokesman Joel DeSpain, "both the mayor and police chief thanked everyone involved, including the attendees, for making this another successful and very safe Freakfest."
What about the numbers? The final ticket count is 34,079, just shy of the 35,000 figure from 2006. "We're right in that ballpark," says DeSpain. As for arrests, there were 108 reported as of 2 a.m., compared to 143 at that time last year. The Madison Fire Department had 16 calls, meanwhile, half of which were for false alarms and five more for issues presumably related to intoxication.
"We had some minor issues as we were shutting thigns down, including a small mosh pit, but it wasn't much of a problem," notes DeSpain. "We used fencing and mounted police to empty the streets, and the large crowd at the Capitol cleared out quite nicely," he contiues. "It's a credit to those who came to the event tonight that there was no property damage, and as far as we know no significant injuries."
DeSpain says that while he got a few national media calls over the night, there wasn't any interest when he reported that everything was running smoothly. "We hope we can continue to turn the corner to make this a community event and not a national spectacle," he concludes.
2:28 a.m.: Mayor Dave Cieslewicz has issued his official statement on Freakfest 2007. He says:
This was the most successful Halloween on State Street in several years. The gating and ticketing strategy we started last year has resulted in a whole new tone for the event. Halloween in Madison has been transformed in a positive way.
For the second year in a row, this has been a fun and positive event for the community. Thousands of people enjoyed great music, good food and some great costumes. Arrests were down again, and as last year, the event ended peacefully.
It is my hope that we can continue to improve this event. My three goals continue to be: having the event end without incident; reducing costs to taxpayers; and addressing the issue of alcohol abuse. We have met the first goal two years in a row; we are making progress on the second goal, but must continue to find ways to increase revenue and reduce costs; the third issue is the most challenging, but anecdotal information indicates that abuse of alcohol was not as significant this year.
Making this a fun and safe event would not be possible without the hard work of a great many organizations and individuals. Frank Productions did a great job organizing the entertainment this year, in conjunction with the Associated Students of Madison. Downtown Madison Incorporated (DMI) and the downtown Business Improvement District (BID) helped us develop a plan that was sensitive to the needs of downtown businesses. Mad City Broadband's assistance in deploying cameras in the State Street area also helped make this a safe event.
A wide variety of city staff played key roles as well: most notably the Madison Police Department, but also City Engineering, the Parks Department, Metro Transit, Fleet Services, the Streets Department, the Madison Fire Department and the Information Technology Department. Thanks are also due to our law enforcement partners, including the State Patrol, University of Wisconsin Police, Dane County Sheriff's Department and State Capitol Police. And of course, thanks most of all to the thousands of people who attended Freakfest and helped make it a fun and peaceful event.
2:22 a.m.: "The bars are leting out, slowly but surely," says Christopher Guess on State Street. "Everyone just wants to go home, I think. Before the crowds cleared, they were actually chanting, 'Let's go home!'"
2:09 a.m.: "Excellent." That's the overall impression Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz has of this year's Freakfest on State Street. "This was the most successful Halloween we've had in several years," he says. "Absolutely no problems at all at the end of the event, and we didn't get anywhere near last year in terms of arrests. I'm very happy about it."
One issue that remains, though, is the ongoing security costs for maintaining such a large law enforcement operation over the weekend. Since the city is now splitting ticket revenues with Frank Productions, it may not be able to recoup as much as it did last year.
"I'm not sure about that point on the ticket sales," says Cieslewicz. "I know we sold quite a few today at the higher price." The mayor rather emphasizes the city's longer-term approach towards bringing Halloween under control.
"For these first few years with the new strategy, the most important thing is to deliver a safe event, which we've done for two years in a row," he says. "Now we can look at the costs going forward, and also increasing what we can bring in via revenues."
2:04 a.m.: Quinn Craugh at the UW J335 Halloween coverage project reports the attendance and arrest figures as of 1 a.m., and noting the division of the party at Johnson Street more than half-an-hour later to signal the official end of the event.
1:52 a.m.: "Clearing the streets was ridiculously easy," says Christopher Guess, "so much easier than last year." He estimates that some 90% of the revelers on State Street have no departed, with the remainder simply waiting until bars to close shortly.
1:45 a.m.: The mayor and his staff are at the EOC on the south side watching the end of Freakfest on the surveillance cameras. "It looks like the street clearing is going well," says spokesperson George Twigg, and things are pretty quiet.
1:37 a.m.: "Everything is finished now, and people are just clearing the streets," says Dave Maynard of Frank Productions. "I talked to Matt Wertz and the Lifehouse people, and all were happy and thought the crowd was great"
The process of striking the stages is now undeway, and Maynard estimates that everything will be down within a couple of hours.
1:32 a.m.: Quinn Craugh at UW J335 also notes that the arrest figures seen so far this year are lower in comparison to those in 2006.
1:28 a.m.: It is now officially freezing outside, with the temperature dipping to 32 F. It's going to get colder yet as night deepens.
1:25 a.m.: "Yes, there was chanting in the 500 block awhile ago, but that has stopped now," confirms Mike Verveer, who is observing the revelry from the intersection of State, Johnson, and Henry. "It's calmer now, and everybody seems very good humored," he notes. What is most remarkable to the longtime downtown alder is the fact that only one person had been conveyed to detox as of midnight. "That's unbelieveable!"
1:17 a.m.: "I'm down at the 500 block," says Christopher Guess, "and the party has toned down a bit, but there's still some energy." The Isthmus photographer relates a conversation he had with a sergeant in the MPD, who noted that the situation has started getting a little tense at points. "Everything was smooth up until 12:45 a.m. or so, and then the "Ole!" and "Eat Shit, Fuck You" chants started up again, though they have since died down. Law enforcement will start closing the festivities shortly.
1:06 a.m.: Joel DeSpain reports that as of midnight, there were 31,328 tickets sold and distributed, compared to 31,075 at that time in 2006. "We still have a pretty good queue of people lined up at Lake and State, so we figure that will go up," he says. The music stages are starting to shut down, though, and the party officially closes at 1:30 a.m.
The police are also "pleasantly surprised" by the number of arrests so far. Again, as of midnight, there have been 63 people arrested, with the majority being alcohol-related citations, along with three violations of the glass-free zone, two for obstructing police, and one for resisting arrest. There has also only been one person transported to detox so far.
In terms of house parties, there are a few large gatherings around the isthmus, with the most problematic one on Gorham Street, where people on the roof were reportedly throwing items off it it onto the ground. "Officers are in the process of shutting that party down," says DeSpain.
There have also been a few other minor issues, including a trash can fire by the Capitol. Earlier reports of a battery didn't pan out, meanwhile, and the Madison Fire Department reports that there has been no need yet to convey any injured persons to a hospital.
"Most people are just out there enjoying Freakfest and not looking for trouble," says DeSpain. "Of course, we're now moving into the witching hour, and we hope our plans to keep the end of the night peacful play out."
12:52 p.m.: Bridget Maniaci offers a potpourri of comments on the various festivities around town, including Freakfest on Street, the bar scene on University Avenue, and Halloween at the Majestic Theatre.
12:47 p.m.: Skye Kalkstein of UW J335 comments on the costumes: "A gang of superheros, cartoon characters and athletes, walk the bright lights of State Street, hoping for mouth dropping costumes."
12:41 a.m.: "So far, so good, everyone seems to be having a good time," says Mike Verveer, confirming the comments of other observers of and at the party. "I've hardly seen anybody get arrested," he notes, "maybe only two people the entire time I've been here."
Verveer was just at the Lifehouse set up by the Capitol, where he says the band was wearing skeleton costumes a la The Karate Kid, complete with their faces painted. "There's a big crowd there," he says. "Apparently some people actually did come for the music."
12:33 p.m.: Fred Frank of Frank Productions is ecstatic about the execution of Freakfest so far. "Everything has gone as planned," he says, watching the revelry from the Emergency Operations Center at the water utility building on the south side where there are 32 different surveillance shots of the event. "We're currently at 32 to 33,000 people, and are stil selling tickets. The crowd is extremely well-behaved, and it looks like they're having a good time."
12:20 a.m.: The final performer of the night -- Lifehouse -- is now set to play on the stage at the Capitol.
12:16 a.m.: Dave Cieslewicz is currently giving a TV interivew at the corner of State and Gilman, notes his spokesman George Twigg. "There's a pretty good sized crowd out," he says. "People are moving along pretty easily, so that's always a good sign."
12:11 a.m.: With the arrival of Sunday morning, so too comes colder conditions. The temperature is currently 35 F, with lows expected to bottom out in the mid-20s later in the morning.
12:06 a.m.: The crowds are spread out along all six blocks of State Street, notes Christopher Guess. "It's really busy everywhere, which is unlike last year," he says. "There have been a couple instances of groups of twenty or so people doing the "Ole!" chant, but they are dispersing when police approach them. There is definitely energy and the potential for trouble here tonight.
12:00 a.m.: Two more musical acts are about to play. At Peace Park, Ra Fury is set to perform as the winner of the Freakfest Battle of the Bands, while Natty Nation is taking the stage by the Capitol.
11:55 p.m.: The costume contest in Peace Park is now concluded, reports Rachel Tatge. It lasted a mere ten minutes, with awards given in five categories: Most Humorous, Scariest, Most Creative, Best Look-Alike and Best Overall. She also notes that there is a defective surveillance camera in this area, and the city is planning on repairing it shortly.
11:48 p.m.: Richie Rathsack of the UW J335 Halloween reporting project just published a report on the state of Freakfest so far.
11:41 p.m.: "King Street is a madhouse," reports The Daily Page contributor Sally Franson. "I've seen people in costume as everything from three brides to a Big Boy to three cans of Miller Lite to a barbeque rib sauce container."
There are lines of people in front of nearly every club and tavern on the busy street opposite the Capitol from Freakfest. The largest crowd is in front of the Majestic Theatre. "I would say that the rule for costumes at HalloQueen is that less is more," says Franson, "with more flesh being exposed than is usually kosher in a public space."
Not everybody is down with the party, though. She has spotted a few late diners making dashes for their cars amidst the general revelry, as both King and Doty remain congested with people moving back and forth between bars.
11:26 p.m.: Around 27,000 tickets have been sold so far notes MPD spokesman Joel DeSpain. "It's a pretty fun-loving crowd, with a lot of people taking pictures of each other's costumes," he says. "The people at the Overture leaving The Capitol Steps concert also looked like they enjoyed the costumes."
The largest concentration of people at this point is at the stage on Capitol Square, where the set by Matt Wertz, Dave Barnes, and The Gabe Dixon Band is continuing. There is also a large concentration of people waiting to enter Freakfest at the Lake Street entrance on the opposite end of State Street.
Arrests are way down compared to last year, with only 18 so far, mostly for alcohol violations. There is also a report of a battery downtown, and the police are responding. "It's remarkable how few arrests there have been considering the large number of people there," says DeSpain of the general consensus among the law enforcement officers watching the revelry from the command post at the central fire station.
11:11 p.m.: Robbie Webber is currently at the Barriques on West Washington Avenue, taking a break from the partying on State Street. She identifies numerous costumes she has seen over the last hour. These include: the Twin Towers with planes crashing into them on one side and a campaign poster reading "Giuliani in '08" on the other, a Hillary Clinton, a "guy who is the spitting image of Johnny Depp" as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Carribean, a couple dressed as a 1950s living room set, a Pope Benedict XVI, the pontiff of Green Bay (that is "St. Vince", a corrections officer from Oregon, Wisconsin named Steve "Helmet Head" Keller who wears a mitre and green ceremonial garb at Packers games), Beaker of The Muppets fame, three Tetris pieces, and a very tall guy in a very fancy wedding dress, among others.
11:03 p.m.: In more serious matters, there was an article published Friday on Alternet that reports on the arrest of bullet-proof vest maker David H. Brooks at his apartment in New York early Thursday morning. "Brooks emerged as the poster boy for shameless war profiteering in November of 2005 when he blew some $10 million in profits from military contracts on a celebrity-studded party for his daughter," writes Sarah Anderson.
Now Brooks is being indicted by the IRS, which alleges that he concealed multiple charges both from them and the shareholders of DHB Industries while he was it's chief executive officer. One of these allegations is particularly relevant to Freakfest, namely "$31,802 to transport one of his daughters and her college friends to Halloween parties in Madison, Wisconsin, using a private jet." Wow.
11:00 p.m.: The "Parade of Freaks Costume Contest" is starting in Peace Park.
10:54 p.m.: Bridget Maniaci comments on the massive traffic jam that's currently tying things up in the Tenney neighborhood: "Good luck to the dude in uniform with the glow sticks and the whistle standing directly in the middle of the road trying to direct the circuitous and increasingly frustrated, lost drivers on one way streets trying to figure out how to get to 'the action.'"
10:49 p.m.: Gomeroke just ended at the stage in Peace Park, reports Rachel Tatge. The Gomers performed for around two hours, with singers from the crowd performing hits by Pink Floyd, KISS, and various other groups. Now the "Parade of Freaks Costume Contest" is about to get underway.
10:45 p.m.: The next performer to take the Buckeye Lot stage is Locksley, the Madison-gone-NYC quartet that plays British Invasion garage rock. They discuss their thoughts about Halloween in Madison in an interview this week with The Daily Page.
10:38 p.m.: "Insects seem to be ruling the night," declares Downtown Business Improvement District Executive Director Mary Carbine, who is observing the revelry from near Capitol Square. She likewise saw the group of giant bugs and the bee puppeteer. The crowd, meanwhile, is "healthy" but not "huge," with quite a few people listening to the Matt Wertz set currently underway.
Carbine points out that many revelers continue to enter the party, and there are long lines at the entrance points at that end of State Street. "The mood seems really festive," she says, "it's not subdued, but everything seems to be going really well."
10:25 p.m.: A cohort of the Madison mayoral staff is currently observing the party from the corner of State and Gilman, including George Twigg, Mario Mendoza, Joel Plant, the new city alcohol policy coordinator Katherine Plominski (who actually officially starts the job on Monday), along with Downtown Madison Inc. President Susan Schmitz. Mayor Dave Cieslewicz was near the party earlier in the evening while attending The Capitol Steps show at the Overture Center, but subsequently departed briefly to stop at his near west side home. He will be returining to Freakfest shortly.
10:09 p.m.: "We just saw the Founding Fathers go by," says near west side alder Robbie Webber, who is watching the revelry on State Street in front of the new Pipefitter storefront on its 500 block. She also spotted the group of giant insects, though identifies them as a praying mantis, ant, and beetle. Bugs seem to be something of a motif at Freakfest tonight, as there is also a guy with a bumblebee puppet wielding a kazoo for buzzing, as well as a number of women taking the "sexy fill-in-the-blank" concept in the direction of Apoidea. Bees are big.
10:03 p.m.: The Halloween party at the High Noon Saloon is picking up, notes owner Cathy Dethmers. "There's definitely a lot of people that tried really hard on their costumes," she says, pointing particularly to women dressed up as a lobster and as three strips of bacon as standouts.
9:55 p.m.: As of 9 p.m., there were 20,152 tickets sold and distributed reports MPD spokesman Joel DeSpain, which compares to 22,206 at the same point last year. Generally speaking, the police are estimating that there will be a turnout similar to the 35,000 overall seen in 2006. "There are stil parents out their with their kids," he says, "and everybody is having a good time."
9:51 p.m.: There's a small crowd of costumed revelers gathering in front of the King Club, including a Duffman, a top-hatted Slash, and a jester, among others. All are taking a smoke break from the Halloween Spooktacular inside the downtown nightclub, which features music by Pagee Go-Go, Screamin' Cyn Cyn and the Pons, The Facesteak, and caburleque by Foxy Veronica's Peach Pies.
9:43 p.m.: Over at Wonder's Pub at Schenk's Corners on the near east side, the Halloween Rock 'n' Roll Spooktacular fundraiser for the Goodman Atwood Community Center is underway. The Sigourney Weavers are done playing, and The Motor Primitives are just getting started, notes John Feith, who plays guitar for VO5, Madison's nine-piece live disco supergroup.
"The best costume I've seen is a Bobby Riggs and Billy Jean King," says Feith, in homage to The Battle of the Sexes tennis match at the Astrodome in 1973.
VO5 is set to play in about a half-hour. For those missing the fundraiser costume party tonight, though, the disco superstars will also be playing at the UW Hoofer's Buccaneer's Ball at Memorial Union on the actual day of Halloween, Wednesday, October 31.
9:30 p.m.: Madison hip-hop favorite Rob Dz is now scheduled to perform at the stage in the Buckeye Lot, the seventh performer so far of the party. He speaks about his recent activities in a pre-Freakfest interview with The Daily Page.
9:27 p.m.: "I'd say it is about as busy now as it was around 12:30 a.m. last night," says Isthmus photographer Christopher Guess, though the crowds now extend the entire six-block length of State Street. "I've never seen it this busy at the Capitol before."
Guess notes that the mounted police presence is much more visible than on Friday night, but it's a few other animals that are currently garnering plenty of attention. There is a trio of people in costume as a giant praying mantis, a giant butterfly, and a giant spider. "The definitely spent some time on those costumes," he says.
9:24 p.m.: Observing the party from the corner of State, Gilman, and Broom streets, Joel Plant reports a "good mix of people" of varying ages joining in the revelry. Busy earlier in the night with helping set things up with Frank Productions and the private security agency RTM, the mayoral aide is now walking up and down the street, periodically stopping in at the downtown comand post. In terms of costumes, Plant identifies two that have stood out so far: one, a group of Sesame Street characters on Friday; and two, a 12-foot long fish made out of fabric.
9:12 p.m.: Downtown alder Mike Verveer is stopping by a number of his constituents' house parties around the downtown, and plans to head to State Street later in the night. He says that the student chatter he's hearing is that there's a better attitude about Freakfest this year than in 2006.
"They assumed State Street would be lame and turned into a police state," says Verveer. "That wasn't the case, so I'm hoping that fairly positive experience will keep people from shying away from State tonight. Most house parties I know of are planning on shutting down early and heading down to Freakfest later. The main thing people are talking about is costumes, which is what Halloween should be all about.
Verveer is going as Rosemary Lee, the downtown resident who has the mayoral-approved sobrique of "The 21st Alder," due to her regular presence at Common Council meetings and other city business. He is wearing a wig, glasses, make-up, and a Majestic Theatre t-shirt, one of which was given to Lee by the venue's owners at its grand opening party to thank her for supporting its liquor license in the ALRC.
9:00 p.m.: The Might Short Bus, a Southern rock band from Madison, are assuming the stage on the Capitol Square.
8:43 p.m.: The State Street entrance to Peace Park is blocked off by fences, notes Rachel Tatge, so the only way to access this stage at Freakfest is via Gilman Street. Gomeroke is currently underway there, with the group bringing singers on stage for "I Want You To Want Me" by Cheap Trick, as well as a song by Black Sabbath and a coupe other tunes.
8:36 p.m.: "Based on ticket sales, we're about on pace with where the event was last year," says Joel DeSpain about the police estimates on the size of the party. Ticket sales are now around 18,700, and there have been two arrests and no significant problems. The major focus for police at this point is determining what will happen on the south end of the UW campus. The beer gardens on Regent Street are now closing for the night, after being open all day for the Wisconsin football game, and police are trying to get an indication of whether these persons will be going downtown or not.
8:23 p.m.: Over at the High Noon Saloon, owner Cathy Dethmers is getting things ready for the Maximum Ink Halloween Party, which starts at 9 p.m. This costume concert features the Chicago horror-glam group Cealed Kasket, Mr. Brownstone (a G'n'R tribute band), Turbo (Awesome Car Funmaker covering The Cars), and Straight to the Stone Age (a tribute to Queens of the Stone Age). "People are just starting to arrive," says Dethmers, who notes that about half of the patrons are in costume at this point.
8:18 p.m.: "So far it's pretty tame," writes Stephen Vakil about the party on the 200 block of State Street. He has also published photos of a few costumed revelers, the stadium lights blaring at the far end of the party, and the police officers who seem to be everywhere.
8:15 p.m.: Madison-based singer-songwriter Mike Droho is officially slated to start his set on stage in the Buckeye Lot at Gorham Street. All three stages are now in action.
8:09 p.m.: MPD spokesman Joel DeSpain is at the downtown command center at the fire department headquarters. "Not a lot is happening," he says, noting that the traffic plan was officially implemented at 6:59 p.m. He does have more information about ticket sales, though. "We've got word from the promoter that as of 7 p.m., they've sold 18,000 tickets.
8:05 p.m.: Traffic is really starting to get backed-up in the Langdon and Tenney neighborhoods, with a line of cars packing East Gilman Street and police directing many others away from the area.
8:00 p.m.: The live music at Freakfest is slated to begin. The Toronto-based down-tempo indie group The Midway State is playing on the Capitol Stage, while Gomeroke is just getting started at Peace Park.
7:55 p.m.: The King Street side of Capitol Square is fairly active, with many pedestrians in costume going to and fro, though mostly in the direction of Freakfest. The air is very chilly, with an intermittent brisk wind as a waning gibbous moon rises from the eastern horizon. It's a classic mid-autumn night.
7:46: Mayoral staffer Joel Plant is currently on State Street in front of the main entrance to the Overture Center. "It's more crowded than a normal Saturday night,," he says, "with about two-thirds of the people looking like they're coming and going from the UW football and hockey games, with a few others in costume.
7:39 p.m.: Madison music writer (and The Daily Page contributor) Kiki Schueler is getting ready for tonight's show by Head of Femur and National Beekeepers Society at her House of Righteous Music. "I hope there will be a lot of people here," she says. "It's definitely a good alternative to the craziness on State Street."
7:33 p.m.: Isthmus marketing coordinator Rachel Tatge is at the Peace Park stage, which is sponsored by this publication. She has been working there since 5:30 p.m. The scene is pretty quiet at this point, with only a couple of people trickling into the area. The stage is set up with the instruments belonging to The Gomers, who will be starting this Halloween edition of Gomeroke at 8 p.m.
7:30 p.m.: Freakfest 2007 has officially started, and tickets are now required to enter State Street. The show is starting with DJ Papi Love spinning on the stage at the Buckeye Lot, and DJ Mike Carlson holding down the main stage by the Capitol. Both are slated to spin until around 8 p.m., when the bands start get started for the night.
7:21 p.m.: Political blogger Gregory Humphrey has a question about a Freakfest billboard he spotted this afternoon on the Beltline. "So who paid for the large billboard to promote and lure even more people to an event that taxpayers will foot the bill for?"
The billboard was not paid for by the city, says George Twigg, who explains that all promotions for the event were conducted by Frank Productions. "No city tax dollars are being used for that," he says.
7:10 p.m.: Appropriately enough, Rockin' John McDonald is throwing in some old-school Halloween classics in with his regular repertoire toire of '50s and '60s eras golden oldies in his "I Like it Like That" show on WORT, including "The Monster Mash" by Bobby "Boris" Pickett and "I'm a Mummy."
7:06 p.m.: Everything is ready to go for Freakfest, reports Dave Maynard of Frank Productions. Both Gorham and Johnson streets are closed to traffic, the stages are ready to go, and the bands' soundchecs are complete.
7:03 p.m.: After watching the Wisconsin Badgers defeat the Illinois Hoosiers in the UW Homecoming football game at Camp Randall this afternoon, Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz will be monitoring the Freakfest revelries through the night. He will be spending his time at the downtown command post, the Emergency Operations Center on the south side, and finally on State Street, where he is planning to visit around 9 p.m.
7:00 p.m.: State Street is now officially fenced, and tickets will be required to enter the area at 7:30 p.m.
6:55 p.m.: Most of the other musicians performing at Freakfest are present and ready to take the stage tonight. Earlier in the afternoon, members of Lifehouse made their way to the other side of the Square, where they did some shopping at CONTEXT clothing on King Street, reports the shop's co-owner Sam Parker. They have a long time to wait, as they won't be taking the stage until after midnight.
6:47 p.m.: There is a change to the Freakfest concert line-up. Early Saturday afternoon, Frank Productions issued the following release: "Due to unforeseen circumstances, Ky-Mani Marley will not be performing this evening on the Milio's/Onion Stage at Freakfest. In his place, Jah Boogie's Natty Nation will be taking up the flag and filling the street with music made for dancing."
6:36 p.m.: Mayoral communications director George Twigg offers the city's official position at the outset of tonight's party. "We had a good year last year, and we're hoping for more of the same," he says. "It was encouraging that the lead-up to the event hasn't been as much trouble as in 2006, with organized efforts to move the party to Langdon Street or anything like that. We just want there to be a good turnout where everybody will have a good time, enjoying the music, food, and costumes."
6:23 p.m.: The Capitol Square was buzzing on Saturday afternoon. Numerous red-clad Badgers fans were going in and out of the various restaurants and taverns at the top of State Street, as the city and Frank Productions made their final preparations for Freakfest. At 5:30 p.m., the downtown traffic plan was activated, re-routing auto and bus traffic through the isthmus away from State Street.
6:15 p.m.: It's going to be a cold night. The temperature is currently 49 F, and the weather forecast calls for early morning lows around 30 F, with widespread frost expected after midnight. Skies should remain mostly clear, and light northwest winds of 5 to 10 mph should continue into the morning.
Halloween is here, at least in Madison. Once again, the city is working with a concert promoter to create a structured festival atmosphere for the holiday festivities on State Street, which had previously devolved into melees between drunken revelers and police for four years running. After last year's parties ended fairly peaceable amidst the new fencing and admissions system, the city is hoping to make it two in a row with Freakfest 2007, a series of live performances organized by Frank Productions.
They may succeed. The forecast is for cold temperatures, and the reputation of the event has noticeably shifted away from its onetime notoriety of an alcoholic baccanalia. Additionally, the crowds were minimal and the number of arrests barely broke two dozen on Friday night, which typically serves as a warm-up for the main event on Saturday night. Tonight will tell.