Updated Sun, Oct 20, 2013 5:38 pm
The city of Athens’ preparation for the Halloween Block Party is in full swing this week, but planning for the event began months ago.
Deputy Service-Safety Director Ron Lucas said that the city begins preparing for the mass of costumed partiers in July with city and Ohio University officials meeting to talk about what they may want to do differently for the October event.
This year’s block party will be held on Oct. 26 on Court Street with music beginning at 7:30 p.m.
One of the first steps for the city is for Athens City Council to adopt a series of ordinances to make the inevitable event legal. This includes closing Court Street and portions of some intersecting streets to vehicular traffic, suspending the city’s noise ordinance for the music on two stages, making downtown a glass-free zone and more.
Each year thousands of Ohio University students and guests flood Court Street in their best costumes to celebrate the Halloween tradition. This large one-night event takes a lot of strategic planning across many city departments, including police, fire and public works. Athens County EMS will also be on hand for the event.
Lucas said that he anticipates there may be more people in town for the block party this year as Ohio University’s football team will host rival Miami University at Peden Stadium at 2 p.m. While he said he didn’t anticipate any major traffic issues since the game is much earlier than the block party,
Lucas said he thinks some people will come to the game and then stay in town for the party.
The city will be finalizing preparations for the block party throughout the week, Lucas said. For instance, stalls and hay for police horses will be prepped at the Athens County Fairground on West Union Street on Thursday.
On Friday, the city public works department will begin setting up barricades and portable toilets. Lucas said the public works department is the busiest city department on the week leading up to the event. On Saturday, the department will shut down the street to vehicular traffic.
New this year will be a barricade down Mill Street that will keep vehicles and pedestrians separated. Lucas said that traffic will only be permitted to travel down the hill on Mill Street. Ohio University recently purchased 1,000 feet of metal barricade, which will be used during the Miami football game.
Following the game, Lucas said city workers will rush to remove the barricade and set it up on Mill Street.
After the party is over, public works crews will move in to clean up the streets and sidewalks in the downtown area, plus disassemble the barricade on Mill Street. Lucas said that Court Street is the cleanest the morning following Halloween than it is all year.
“Our goal is for people to walk down Court Street and say, ‘There was a party here last night?’” he said. Lucas added that public works crews work until 5 or 6 a.m. on Sunday to get the area cleaned up.
Of course public works isn’t the only one working through the night. The Athens Fire Department is staffed at “emergency level” for Halloween, although firefighters are stationed at the fire headquarters until they may be needed. Lucas said that the fire department has been called to respond to fires the last two or three years, including a fire on top of the Athena Cinema one year.
Law enforcement have the largest presence during the event as officers from many outside agencies help police the event. Not only are the Athens Police, OU Police and Athens County Sheriff’s Office on duty, but so are State Highway Patrol and agencies from outside the county. Mounted officers are also utilized for the event.
Athens County EMS will have extra crews working and a squad will be stationed at the intersection of Court and Washington Streets. Lucas said that EMS foot patrols will also be at the event.
In addition to paid first responders and city workers, volunteers will participate in city and OU safety patrol teams. The small groups of volunteers will be throughout the city helping guests with directions, providing minor first aid, advising people of hazards such as broken glass and providing tips for avoiding arrest. For example, safety teams may ask a person with an open alcohol container on a sidewalk to dispose of their beverage. Lucas said the safety teams can put a stop to minor offenses so that police can focus their attention on larger issues.
Lucas said that there will be shuttles provided by Athens Public Transit on Friday and Saturday from the Athens County Fairgrounds (where guests can park) on West Union Street to Buffalo Wild Wings on West Union and the Convocation Center on Richland Avenue. The shuttle costs $1 and will operate from 5 p.m. on Friday to 3 a.m. on Saturday and from 3 p.m. Saturday to 3 a.m. on Sunday.
Those interested in volunteering to be part of a safety team can contact Lucas at 592-3340. The safety teams are on patrol from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.