A view of State Street on Friday, Oct. 28, 2005.
The first night of the 2006 Halloween weekend in Madison was a generally low-key affair, with crowd sizes and numbers of arrests both down when compared to 2005. There was still plenty of fun to be had, though, as State Street crowds swelled to about 10,000 at their midnight peak. More than anything else for all persons involved in every aspect of the event, the night served as a warm-up for Saturday.
The Daily Page is collaborating with The Daily Cardinal to provide regular reports about the State Street parties, 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.
2:50 a.m.: MPD PIO Mike Hanson released the final numbers for the evening. The official police update reads: "As of 2:30 a.m. there were 68 arrests as a result of incidents on and near State St. This is significantly lower than last year, on Friday. Of the 68 arrests, 13 actually went to jail. One arrest was for an individual kicking the door to the arrest processing center. The streets were opened around 2:30 a.m. in the downtown area."
2:39 a.m.: CRASH Madison sends a final message for the morning: "Cops moving ppl 2 sidewalks now; Get home safely with Union Cab, 242-2000; Badger Cab, 256-5566; Madison Taxi, 257-8294."
2:17 a.m.: "It's boring, it's by the books, and bartime went off without a hitch," is the summation delivered by Chris Guess.
2:14 a.m.: "It seems to be dying down," says George Twigg. "From the video feeds we have, the streets are emptying out and looks pretty sparse." The police have another briefing scheduled for the mayor at 2:30 a.m., at which point the night will probably be declared over in terms of special event status. One big thing they'll be paying attention to are arrest numbers, which are looking like they'll be significanly less than those on the Friday night party in 2005.
2:02 a.m.: Phil Ejercito is standing in front of The Pub on the 500 block of State. "Right now I would describe the situation as in stais," he says. "Mounted officers are doing their thing up and down the street through they're not really trying to push anyone off it, and there's some sort of generic message over the loudspeaker system, though it's impossible to understand more words than "Madison," "Halloween," and "State Street."
1:54 a.m.: With bar time only minutes away, Mike Verveer is observing the party at the public safety command center located at the University Inn. "It's pretty quiet, which is a good thing," he says. Verveer is watching a number of video surveillance shots of State Street, along with a real-time event map of the downtown area that's plotted down to the level of the house party. "None of this is new to this year, or even to this party," Verveer says. "They activate this kind of command post for the Mifflin Street Block Party too." What's the conclusion at the command center as the night winds down? "There seems to be some sense across the board," Verveer says, "that there are fewer people out tonight when compared to last year."
1:40 a.m.: "It's emptying out significantly," reports Chris Guess. "I'm not sure what's goig to happen when bar time comes around, but there are about half the amount of people now as there were an hour ago. The entire street is clearing. After you get past the 500 block, it's pretty empty."
1:35 a.m.: Joel Plant is watching the festivities from the center of the 500 block of State. "People are still having fun," he says, "and that's what we like to see." Plant says that while there haven't been any costumes that have really impressed him, he did particularly like seeing two of the five Miller Park sausages: the hot dog and polish sausage. "They wre pretty good," he says.
1:12 a.m.: Prolific blogger Sara Ziemendorf recently published an extensive account of her Friday night experiences on State Street. She discusses the scene on State Street, the costumes sported by revelers, and her experience with some unwanted attention. A Halloween adventure.
1:08 a.m.: "There's a lot more people out here now," says Mike Verveer. "After 11 p.m., the crowds sure came out." The downtown alder is standing in the 300 block of State Street with mayoral staff Joel Plant and Mario Mendoza, along with downtown resident and activist Rosemary Lee. Verveer recently spoke with the two MPD field commanders in charge of the event -- Capt. Richard Bach for upper State Street and Capt. John Davenport for the lower half of the street. Both of them, he says, said they are pleased with the event so far. They also mentioned Saturday afternoon's weather forecast to Verveer, a sign that the chance of very gusty winds will have an effect on the bit night out. What is Verveer's favorite costume so far? A guy wearing an authentic House page suit and bearing a placard that reads, "I [Heart] Mark Foley."
12:57 a.m.: George Twigg and Mayor Dave Cieslewicz are back at the the Emergency Operations Center, following a circuit down the length of State Street, around the whole of Langdon, back up State and across the Square to the arrest process center in the City-County Building, and then back to their home base. All in all, "things are pretty quiet," Twigg says, particularly when compared to last year. "The streets did have to close quite a bit earlier last year," he says, "definitely earlier than the closing time around midnight this year."
12:44 a.m.: "We're probably around a crowd size estimate of 10,000," says MPD PIO Mike Hanson. He also provides an update on the number of arrests; there have been 31 so far, consisting of 44 charges total, mostly alcohol-related. Hanson also confirms that the official police traffic plan is in effect now, with traffic being rerouted from the Gorham and Johnson crossings of State Street. How did the command center make the determination to enact the plan? "It's a combination of vehicular movement and number of pedestrians that are crossing the roadaway," Hanson says, with an emphasis on the safety of the latter, "particularly when you inclue alcohol in the mix."
12:39 a.m.: CRASH Madison sent its second text message of the evening. It reads: "Vehicle traffic on Gorham and Johnson now being rerouted."
12:35 a.m.: "I'd say the crowd size has probably doubled again," says Chris Guess. "There's not that much rowidness, though, it's pretty damn calm," he observes from his vantage point at Broom and State. Guess also notes that while police are still clearing revelers from road on the eastern half of State, "down in the 400, 500, 600 blocks, they're not even attempting to clear them out."
12:24 a.m.: Phil Ejercito says police are now confiscating any costume element that looks like a weapons, such as toy swords or guns.
12:22 a.m.: Isthmus contributor Ben Broeren has spent the last few hours with the fairly new Madison chapter of the Guardian Angels. He subsequently headed towards the campus end of State Street, where he witnessed two men push over a Cap Times newspaper box in front of the small flatiron convenience store at State and Gilman. "The police took those individuals in handcuffs right away," he says. Broeren also confirms reports that mounted police are now being used for crowd control. "There's a round of about six cops on horses that are circultating through the crowd in a line," he says. The other major crowd control element Broeren notes is the "very pacifying voice of a female police officer" played over the loudspeakers. "It's very Big Brother," he says. Finally, Broeren shares a few of the costumes out on display this early Saturday morning: Pac Man chasing a ghost, Bob Marley, Snoop Dog, gladiators, plenty of women in cops' uniforms, Batman and Skeletor, among many, many others.
12:14 a.m.: "I just ate a Tico Burrito from Mango Man and it was delicious," says Joel Plant. Watching the scene from Library Mall, he says the crowd is getting bigger but remains calm. "I don't see any dramatic action," he says, though there are many people in costume.
12:09 a.m.: Ashok Kumar reports witnessing six police officers bust a house party near the intersection of Langdon and Henry streets, another sign that things are intensifying as the new day begins.
11:56 p.m.: Chris Guess reports from Concrete Park at the intersection of Frances and State, saying while things remain mostly calm, the street is getting more crowded, with about twice as many revelers than there were a couple of hours ago. "The police aren't just standing around anymore," he says. "They're definitely patrolling," including riding the mounted police in lines up and down the street.
11:47 p.m.: Before ending her Friday night Halloween experience, Robbie Webber discussed one more issue, one near and dear to her as a bicycling enthusiast. This is the issue of bikes left on State Street over Halloween. "Police and other personnel have been collecting anything on State Street that they feel can be picked up and thrown as a projectile," Webber says, such as newspaper boxes and bicycles. However, she says the word hasn't gotten out about this issue as well this year, something that has taken some bicyclists by surprise. Despite some clearing, though, Webber noticed multiple bikes on State Street this evening, still chained to bicycle racks and other objects."I personally wouldn't want to leave my bicycle on State Street anytime after 7:00 p.m. on Saturday," she says.
11:37 p.m.: A report by Jesse Russell at Dane101 notes costumes and confirms reports about the generally relaxed atmosphere out on the street. This includes an evangelical group named "Solutions," that is offering drum circles and videos at the former home of the State Street Arcade (an "adult entertainment center").
11:30 p.m.: The Contessa Says Halloween pary at Café Montmartre is "going great," says the contessa herself, Jessica Thompson. The costume contest winners at the party were just announced, she explains. The winning costume was "George Bush's Foreign Policy," which was actually a Twelfth Century Crusader. Coming in second was a couple dressed up as a trucker and a truck stop waitress. Thompson also praises an acoustic set by party headliners Null Device, an electronic band that usually sounds quite different. She says that aside from traffic to and from the party, there's not much going on at that corner of the Capitol Square.
11:22 p.m.: Now there's a chance to view the multiplicity of police that are the subject of quite a bit of comment below. A very brief video clip shows a brief walk along the last quarter-block or so of the 600 block of State Street. The videographer Wal Ka Tan noted seeing about one police officer every five to ten seconds.
11:15 p.m.: Halloween Action Committee organizer Tom Wangard is currently taking a break from the cold outdoor air at the Taco Bell on State Street. He reports that the situation is "about average" for a Friday before Halloween. "Things are pretty good, everybody is checking out costumes and taking pictures with the cops," he says. Wangard will be working on the Freakfest stages on Saturday, making annoucements and giving interviews as the big night arrives.
11:09 p.m.: "There have been very few arrests tonight," says MPD PIO Mike Hanson. In fact, he continues, there have been less than five. He notes that the streets remain open, with vehicles still able to cross State Street. Revelers that enter into the street are being asked to return to the sidewalks, Hanson explains, which hasn't been a problem. As for the next three hours before bar time? "We're anticipating that it will be pretty peaceful tonight," he says, "but it only takes a few bad apples."
10:58 p.m.: Phil Ejercito just took a lap around Langdon and State Streets. He says the formal looks "pretty normal in terms of weekend traffic," both on foot and on wheels. "The mood is definitely picking up on State Street," he continues, but everybody seems to be in transit" rather than clustering amid the street and sidewalks. He also shares his favorite snippet ("I just have trouble being friendly tonight") from an overheard conversation between some police officers.
10:54 p.m.: While watching the street from the window of Gino's, Robbie Webber saw the mayor and his staff heading towards the police command center about a quarter after ten. As for the scene on State Street, "I think it's a lot less people than last year for a Friday night," she says. "It's starting to pick up, but personally I don't think it's worth hanging around, so I'm heading home." Webber goes on to say that she remembers the Friday night of Halloween in 2005 being much busier than the current situation.
10:49 p.m.: "It's dull," says Daily Cardinal photographer Chris Guess, who is standing at the corner of Broom and State. "I walked the entire thing," he says, "and there's something like eight police on every corner. There's nothing going on. It's really calm, really collected. The street itself is really empty for the most part."
10:46 p.m.: Mike Verveer says the Badger hockey loss was "not a good start to my weekend," noting that the final goal was in an empty net. He's currently at the Plaza, which he describes as pretty normal with the exception of costumes. Like other observers on or near State Street, he also takes note of the overwhelming police presence. "The cops outside are still almost in a one to one ratio with everybody else," he says. "From my recollection, this seems to be pretty similar to last year." However, Verveer thinks that around 11 p.m., normal late-night tavern traffic will pick up and lead to bigger crowds on State. As for crowd behavior, "I haven't seen any problems whatsoever," Verveer says. "I haven't seen anybody being cited or arrested. About the only problem I've seen is horse manure from the mounted patrol."
10:38 p.m.: The conditions outside are slowly beginning to turn outright cold and dip below freezing. When speaking earlier with Paul Skidmore, the alder noted that while Saturday's forecast calls for highs around 50°, strong winds are expected as well, with gusts reaching up to 40 miles per hour. Should these conditions continue into Saturday night, they could very well have a significant effect upon crowd size.
10:33 p.m.: Dane County Supv. Ashok Kumar represents neighborhoods around the western end of the UW campus, and is critic of the city's plans. He's standing at the corner of State and Gorham, watching the movements of the police. "It's ridiculous, all you see are cops," he says. "It's about a fifty to fity ratio, as there's not that many people." Kumar also comments on the presence of mounted police. "I didn't see these last year on Friday," he says.
10:24 p.m.: Phil Ejercito says he talked to MPD public information officer Mike Hanson, who said that the city has not yet implemented their traffic routing plan for the event.
10:16 p.m.: Chris Guess, a photographer for The Daily Cardinal, reports that the Badger men's hockey team lost to Boston College by a score of 3-0.
10:14 p.m.: I just got back from a brief interview with Mayor Dave Cieslewicz. He was assembled with several of his staff members (including George Twigg, Janet Piraino, Joel Plant and Mario Mendoza) at the top of State Street, and had just given a live interview for a local 10 p.m. news broadcast. The mayor was pretty upbeat, declaring that the evening was going well thus far, and that he expected it would continue to do so. Mayor Cieslewicz says he will be spending the rest of the night visiting the police command center, the Emergency Operations Center, and walking up and down State Street, before retuning home for a long sleep on Saturday morning
9:53 p.m.: Robbie Webber and her friends have moved on down State Street, positioning themselves in the window of Gino's Restaurant. "Things are starting to pick up a little bit," she says. "I think the most impressive thing is that all of the trees on the street look like they have frost on them, because of the lights. It's actually quite lovely." Webber also reports seeing police checking for liquor in one person's plastic bottle, as well as a pair of costumed ancient Olympians carrying a torch up and down State Street.
9:45 p.m.: The two ticket trailers at Library Mall are shutting down in about 15 minutes. Laura Whitmore reports that there are many more costumed people out and about now. "The sidewalks are full and there are certainly a lot more people walking on State Street," she says. "There are also an awful lot of MaryAnns walking by." Whitmore estimates that total ticket sales are just a bit above the 15,000 mark. She'll be working with the parks department staff through the day to monitor the sales situation.
9:38 p.m.:Another alder out and about on State Street tonight was Paul Skidmore, who represents the far west side of the city. He reports that things have been quiet through much of the evening. Here's his report: "I parked up by the City-County Building, and I went over to the processing center in its basement. There was nothing, zero around 7:30 p.m.. They hadn't processed a single person. Then I walked down State Street and saw probably more police officers than I did people reveling. I saw city police, sheriff's dpeuties, state patrol, some Middleton cops; overall there was no activity, no processing. I stopped by the processing bus where they gather arrested persons, and I saw noting. I literally left five minutes ago and there was no activity where people were out of control or getting wild."
9:28 p.m.: After leaving the Rathskellar, Robbie Webber headed towards Cosi, the fast-casual restaurant at the intersection of Johnson, Henry and State streets. She says traffic is still flowing along Johnson without any back-up, and that she sees more police than partiers, at least at that end of State. Her other main impression: the stadium lights. "When I'm standing in front of the Overture Center and I look directly down State Street," she says, "the lights are directly in my eyes. The back wall of the Orpheum is lit up like noon."
9:21 p.m.: Over the course of this Halloween weekend, the city's water utiltiy building is also home to the EOC, which stands for Emergency Operations Center. Mayor spokesperson George Twigg, who just arrived at the center, describes its purpose: "We've got the video feed for State Street and the ability to video conference, all the same stuff as the police command post." This center, though, is a place where other city staff -- the mayor's office, the city engineer, parks, streets, fire, and police -- can meet "to monitor things and work together as the night unfolds."
9:08 p.m.: Local shutterbug Mark Sadowkski recently published a snapshot of the University Inn stadium lighting as seen from above.
8:58 p.m.: The scene up by the Capitol Square is pretty quiet, says city alcohol policy coordinator and Halloween planner Joel Plant. He notes that there are TV cameras and mounted police officers at the east end of State Street, but only a few people hanging out in costume. Recently arriving downtown, Plant does report seeing "plenty of folks in costume in their cars," presumably headed downtown to join in the fun. Still, he notes, things are pretty relaxed. "From my recollection, it looks about the same as this time on Friday night last year."
8:51 p.m.: Total ticket sales are now up to 15,000 as tabulated by Laura Whitmore in one of the Freakfest ticket sales trailers on Library Mall. She estimates that a couple hundred more will be sold before the trailers close at 10 p.m. Whitmore also describes seeing quite a few more people heading to State Street now, including many in costume. "We just saw some guys walking around as ancient Trojans," she says, "along with lots of scantily-dressed costumes." The revelers are getting more gregarious, she explains, with the overall scene remaining "very festive, very fun." She also says "there's an interesting mix of people coming through," including more than a few Illini football fans, a couple of Boston College hockey fans, and people of all ages.
8:44 p.m.: Cathy Dethmers at the High Noon Saloon reports that bands are just starting to set up for tonight's show featuring Andre Williams, the Diplomats of Solid Sound, and the Nervous System. "I don't really know what kind of crowd to expect tonight for sure," she says, "it's not really a Halloween-type event." Rather, Dethmers continues, the big Halloween party is set for Saturday with a tribute band extravaganza.
8:38 p.m.: Looking out of the WSUM studio windows, DJ Ivan reports that a cresent moon and the stadium lights are giving State Street the feel of a movie set.
8:33 p.m.: The fourth featured article from J335 considers something called the "amoeba effect." It's subtitled "When good students go bad on Halloween, and looks at the intersection of alcohol and crowd dynamics.
8:26 p.m.: Near west side alder Robbie Webber is hanging out in the Rathskellar in the UW Memorial Union. She says the union is not selling pitchers and only allowing patrons to have one cup at any one time. "I cannot go up and buy a beer for my friend," she says, also noting that usually lively campus haunt is really quiet. As it's closing at 9 p.m., Webber says she'll be checking out the situation on State Street shortly thereafter.
8:20 p.m.: There's more background reading courtesy of J335, including this interview about the mob mentality that develops among students at some UW-affiliated events.
8:18 p.m.: Downtown alder Mike Verveer is attending the Badger men's hockey game at the Kohl Center. He reports that Boston College is up 1-0 in this rematch of the recent national championships. Verveer says he'll be heading to State Street as soon as the game is over.
8:12 p.m.: The creator of the texting system is Phil Ejercito, who recently walked the length of State Street from the Capitol to Library Mall. "There was obviously a buzz in the air," he says. T"here was not doubt about that," pointing to law enforcement, "excited out-of towners," and various persons in costumes. Ejercito says a number of fences are up already, namely partial barriers at several intersections on the south side of State, including Frances, Gilman, and Henry streets. "Pedestrian access remains relatively easy," he says, "but those could change to choke points later tonight." He also observed "busloads of regular uniformed officers" sitting in the parking lot beind the University Inn, which is the police command center.
8:02 p.m.: CRASH Madison broadcast its first text-message of Halloween 2006 just minutes ago. It reads: "Welcome 2 Halloween wknd! Weather tonight: lows in mid-30s, 15-20mph winds after midnight"
8:01 p.m.: Another interesting bit of background from J335 is an article that examines "how other cities handle massive public celebrations."
7:57 p.m.: MPD spokesperson Mike Hanson says "at this point it's just a typical Friday night." Busses are still running on State Street and traffic continues to cross it. Hanson also says that the department is not yet seeing any major house parties in downtown neighborhoods by State Street. As for those stadium lights, Hanson says that they "will remain on until the command post decides they can be shut down."
7:42 p.m.:One place for some more background reading about Halloween is J335, a UW School of Journalism class project that's taking on the Halloween story. With eleven articles previewing this weekend, a good place to start is with A History of Halloween, a story about the holiday's ups and downs since the late 1970s.
7:38 p.m.: The stadium lights are gleaming down upon State Street says Laura Whitmore, the city parks department coordinator who is selling tickets over the weekend. She estimates that ticket sales reached about 14,500 total around 6:30 p.m. She says the campus end of State Street is pretty quiet, with only a few people walking about in costumes. Ticket sales will remain open until 10 p.m.
It's finally here, the first night of Halloween weekend in Madison. Will the crowds be bigger this Friday night due to the admissions system in place for Friday? Are many people already wearing their costumes as they walk around State Street? Are ticket sales for Freakfest continuing, and has its headliner musical act been announced yet? These questions and much, much more will be addressed in continuous, live coverage here.