CHAPEL HILL – It’s the one time of year when super heroes , rock stars, ghosts and goblins alike descend on Chapel Hill and roam Frankin St. This Halloween, police estimated that the crowd numbered 30,000— up from last year’s total of 22,000. With tighter restrictions in place, Town leaders had hoped that tighter restrictions would decrease this year’s turnout.
Chapel Hill Police Lieutenant Kevin Gunter said that no arrests were made in the closed area of Franklin St.
Though there weren’t any major incidents, Gunter said the Town will continue to work to reduce crowd size in the coming years.
“Our goal is to keep reducing the numbers,” Gunter said. “At some point, we will get to a point where it is much more manageable. But even 20,000 thousand people can pose a certain problem.”
Attendance has declined steadily in the past several years since the Town initiated “Home Grown Halloween” after 82,000 people filled Franklin St. on Halloween night in 2007.
Gunter said the smaller crowd puts less of a strain on police. 300 law enforcement officers patrolled this year’s Halloween celebration. 250 were from agencies outside of the local jurisdiction.
Daniel Surratt, a bar manager at Top of the Hill, has been in Chapel Hill for seven Halloweens. He said the Town’s effort to reduce the Halloween crowd doesn’t make a drastic difference in profits.
“Once again, the people who are coming in after 1 a.m. probably don’t need another drink anyway. It is certainly easier on us,” Surratt said. “The crowd starts to clear out a little bit earlier. It is such a long night that it is not that bad of a thing to happen.”
UNC Chancellor Carol Folt was walking along Franklin St. in Carolina blue sneakers given to her by Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham. She said she loved her first Chapel Hill Halloween experience.
“I am seeing some pretty amazing costumes,” Folt said. “But I actually have been impressed; there are a lot of little kids here and families, and a million students and also the whole town coming together to make sure it is safe. It is really pretty amazing.”
And the costumes were amazing. Dean Nehama and his friends took a page from pop culture and went as the “Men at Twerk.”
“The whole craze about twerking right now, we thought it was a clever idea [to pick up on that], like a play on words!” Nehama said.
Carrboro High School student Katherine Dunleavy, who was dressed as Ginger Spice of the Spice Girls, said she wished the crowd were as intense as it was in past years.
“It is kind of a bummer, but I think it will get bigger as the night goes on,” Dunleavy said.
Other students, like UNC freshman John Alliss—A.K.A anchorman Ron Burgundy for the night—didn’t seem to mind the smaller crowd than those he’d heard stories about. Alliss was accompanied by his Action Four news team.
Fred Porter, who went as The Village People motorcyclist, was also one of many who dressed up as a member of a larger group.
“It is a lot of fun!” Porter shouted. “We just decided on this a couple of weeks ago and we have a big group of friends. We were thinking, what could we all go as? The Village people!”
James Rockefeller Gray was promoting the bar East End and said the energy on Franklin St. was just the same as it always has been.
“I’m feeling great right now,” Gray said. “I am dressed as a rapper-gangster with a gold chain handing out lollipops!”
And though law enforcement tried to keep the celebration for locals only through road closures and parking limitations, some outsiders, like Shane Grant of Charlotte, still found a way in.
“We drove here in a box truck, and we still found parking,” Grant said. “We parked down near McDonalds.”
Sophie Rose and her family came out to enjoy the thrills of the evening and said she felt safer in the more manageable crowd.
“We chose to come early and leave early, and people can also stay later,” Rose said. “I think it is good that everyone can enjoy the party.”
Her son, Dorian Rose, enjoyed the costumes he saw, “They are funny, and some are a bit scary!”
And just a bit later than scheduled, Franklin St. was cleared at 11:45 p.m. and re-opened to traffic by 12:45 a.m.
Orange County Emergency Medical Services responded to 15 calls related to alcohol intoxication, according to CHPD. Seven of those treated were transported to UNC Hospital for further evaluation.