Building upon its trial run in 2006, the city plans again to establish a fencing and admissions system for access to State Street, where tens of thousands of costumed revelers gather over the final weekend evenings every October. Following a decreasingly serious sequence of disturbances at the parties' end from 2002 through 2005, Cieslewicz's office worked with the MPD and other city agencies to create a ticketed access regime for last year's event. Branded "Freakfest" by a group of UW students (known as the Halloween Action Committee) who collaborated on the plans, the party was deemed a success by both law enforcement and city hall.
Frank Productions, a Madison-based independent promoter that regularly produces concerts at the Coliseum, Orpheum, Barrymore, and the Majestic, is taking on much of the planning for Halloween 2007. "I appreciate the enthusiasm Frank Productions is bringing to this event, and look forward to working closely with them, in conjunction with city staff, students, downtown stakeholders and others as we continue to plan this event," says Cieslewicz in the release issued today (and available at right).
Several downtown stakeholders are commenting favorably on the plans. Halloween Action Committee co-founder Tom Wangard, Downtown Madison Inc. president Susan Schmitz, and restaurateur Hawk Schenkel (owner of the bar and grill bearing his name) each express support for the promoter's involvement in the mayor's release.
With Halloween 2007 just over five months away, the city has been in negotiations with Frank Productions for the last few months. In addition to booking and publicizing the entertaiment, the promoter will also be taking over the ticketing system this autumn. Beyond this announcement, though, very few other details have been released.
"I don't know exactly what the exact format is going to be yet, that's all coming out in the next couple of weeks," says David Maynard, a talent buyer at Frank Productions. "What we're planning on doing is to meet with the city, student groups, and others to make it a collaborative effort. We've had some ideas, but until we've had the meetings and done some brainstorming so that everybody can take some pride in the event, there's not too much for me to go into yet."
Frank Productions has announced that local and "other high-caliber acts" are part of their plans for the entertainment. "We'll definitely be stepping up the entertainment value," says Maynard. "We not only want to see people milling around State Street, but a purpose for being down there too, to enjoy it for another reason than simply drinking and being crazy."
The city is moving quickly on its hopes to have most of the organizing legwork for the party done by a private entity. "The involvement of Frank Productions fulfills a long-time interest of the city in finding ways for the private sector to play a greater role in organizing the Halloween celebration," declares the release. "This will allow the city to remain focused on its primary goal for the event, maintaining public safety."
Does this impact whether the city is or is not an official sponsor, and thus would incur liability? "The city is no more a sponsor this year than we were or weren't last year," says assistant city attorney Lara Mainella. "If we felt there was a problem, we would advise against an action that would increase our liability. At this point we don't think that's the case."
Mayoral spokesperson George Twigg agrees: "In broad terms, this is moving in the right direction having the involvement of a promoter like the Franks."
Frank Productions plans to release more details about the event in coming weeks.