Halloween in Athens: Past and Present

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'Tis the season for costumes and live music; October 25th marks the 40th annual Halloween in Athens block party. 

With a history of street takeovers and general unruliness, the block party has come a long way since it's early years. 

According to Ron Lucas, Deputy Service Safety Director, the Halloween block party arrived to Athens in the mid 1970's as a street takeover. The Athens Police and the city government's intial reaction was to shut down the block party. It wasn't until after two years of battleling the stubborn crowds of party goers that the city decided to close court street and sanction the street party. 

Lucas reflects on how, compared to today's crowd control strategies, in the early years dealing with the event meant the police had to push people back onto the sidewalks as they would block traffic when they filrtered into the street. 

"In the early years, when Halloween just sort of started happening in the 70s, the response was 'oh no, what's going on?' so the first couple years were fairly combative in terms of trying ot get people that overtook Court Street, off the street." 

Jonathan Holmberg, head of the Athens Halloween Committee, noted that since the early 2000s, he's seen a change in how well the city is able to manage and contribute to the block party. We've alleviated a lot of the problems that we had in the early Halloweens, I think in the past ten years," Holmberg said. 

Over time, The Athens Clean and Safe committee has struggled and fought to keep the block party a civilized event. The two stages that are set in Court Street are meant to disperse the crowd to avoid congestion and accidents, Holmberg said. A third stage will be added for this weekend's events. 

Holmberg also noted that it is a combination of cultural changes and compromise that has led to the succesful parties every year.