Halloween In Madison
- 1977 A Halloween tradition is born when about 5,000 people jam State Street near the
UW-Madison campus and 10 police are sent to monitor a large, cardboard box-fueled bonfire
in front of The Pub tavern. ``Star Wars'' characters and pallbearers are big hits.
- 1978 More fires are set by some of the 10,000 who gather on State Street. People
dressed as killer bees, Coneheads and test tube babies.
Lamppost climbing is the craze. Police put axle grease on the poles to prevent revelers from
climbing up. The crowd realized if you throw your cup at the pole it will stick so we had
these sort of festooned poles and that was sort of striking.
- 1979 The Wisconsin Student Association sponsors its first big Halloween party. The first attempt draws about 12,000, but WSA is given a second chance by the City Council because of bad weather. A few days later, a finger-numbing 36-degree temp keeps ghosts and goblins to about 5,000 on State Street during the second attempt at a Halloween party.
- 1980 About 30,000 come to State Street. Pole-climbing is outlawed, and new light poles on State Street are the snap-off type that collapse under heavy pressure or weight. Two officers are treated after being bitten by a person (it was not known if the person came dressed as a vampire). ``M*A*S*H'' characters and punk rockers are popular.
- 1981 More than 100,000 people push through State Street. Someone tries to steal a police badge while it is still attached to the officer. Two women are hospitalized after being trampled. Light poles are greased. Rubik's Cubes, Reagan and Yoda are popular costumes. The Saturday night party follows the Badger's 52-0 victory over the Northwestern Wildcats.
- 1982 About 100,000 people pour onto State Street again. Someone steals a blood pressure cuff and stethoscope from the back of an ambulance. The Blues Brothers and bodily functions make fun costumes. No light poles are greased because the new ones are supposed to be un-climbable (revelers prove that wrong).
- 1983 The infamous year. About 40,000 people come to the party and one man falls off the roof of a bookstore on the corner of Lake and State streets. Someone steals the keys for the ambulance as paramedics try to help the man. He later dies. A cold, hard rain ruins costumes and turns people homeward. Three women dressed as Hare Krishnas follow a man dressed as Nixon and demand to hear ``the tapes.''
- 1984 Rain holds the crowd downtown to about 25,000, but it doesn't seem to dampen any of the revelers' spirits Halloween night. There are the usual can-filled curbs and smoking sheep.
- 1985 For the third straight year, it rains. About 25,000 superheros, presidents and commandos brave the cold drizzle. WSA has rain insurance and collects on it. There is rock and reggae on a stage near the Memorial Union, and beer and brats are sold. A man dressed as Superman is arrested for drunken driving.
- 1986 WSA decides to not serve beer but does sponsor bands and a costume party. Wisconsin's new 21-year-old drinking age is cited as one reason for no beer. Used gum and Gumby's are popular costumes. More than 75,000 show, and MTV considers televising the party. Picnic permits allow some to bring their own half-barrels. And it rains.
- 1987 More than 75,000 come dressed as the Raisins and Hulk Hogan, among other characters. Two beer gardens are set up. WSA is involved but starts backing out as the key organizer. It's the last official Halloween bash for awhile. And it rains.
- 1988 Halloween R.I.P. WSA discontinues its involvement with the party because of expense and emphasis on alcohol. A Monster Bash is held in the Field House instead, and it is a dud. Only 20,000 show on State Street but it's the first Halloween in six years that doesn't include rain.
- 1989 A few people parade on State Street, but Halloween is dead here.
- 1990 A few thousand curious visitors show, and some students trudge up Bascom Hill to compete in a costume contest and see local bands play. It's a nice try, but isn't memorable.
- 1991 Plans are scrapped to bring rapper L.L. Cool J to Madison for Halloween. UW-Madison sororities and fraternities try to bring a non-alcoholic party for students. Wisconsin Union Directorate bows out of helping.
- 1992-94 Only a few Halloween holdouts from the mid-1980s make the trek to State Street.
- 1995 Wisconsin Union Directorate pumps $35,000 of student fees into the festivities, but
pledg to make it free of alcohol. Big music acts hired 75,000 show up. No problems.
- 1996 Despite the success of concert Halloween party last year, there is no large
- 1997 Warm night brings large crowd keeps police extremely busy. Partiers at two locations
in Downtown Madison fell off balconies.
- 1998-99 Small crowds no real problems.
- 2000 40,000 people crowded State Street, police make arrests as revelers broke windows,
set small fires and fought. The crowd was much larger than in the last few years.
- 2001 Two months extra planning by the city brings astonishingly peaceful night despite
- 2002 Police expected the main celebration to occur on Halloween night, a Thursday, but an
estimated 65,000 people jammed State Street late thefollowing Saturday and early Sunday when
police were understaffed. When they were pelted with rocks and bottles, police donned riot
gear and used tear gas to disperse a mob of about 400 drunken revelers.
- 2003 A busy weekend that included a second straight year of mob violence. Total cost for
providing security during Halloween weekend, which was expected to run about $35,000, ended up
- 2004 Rowdies ignited a bonfire and created disturbances. Madison police arrested more than
450 people during this year's bash, and spent more than $255,000. Costs incurred by UW police,
the Dane County Sheriff's Office and Middleton police push the total cost to $469,000.
Some claim the police reacted to fast and actually caused the problems that insued.
A former Rio volunteer firefighter convicted of stoking a State Street bonfire
while costumed in his firefighting gear said Thursday he'll probably never spend another
Halloween on State Street. "You can't even sneeze on the street without getting arrested,"
Jared R. Sunde, 21, said. "It was dumb I was just having fun."
Asked if he regrets wearing his firefighter uniform to State Street, Sunde said, "Yeah, at
least the name tag. That's what got me caught. If I didn't have a name tag on, I'd probably
be free as a bird."
- 2005 The otherwise peaceful event came to a forced ending this year when police used
pepper spray on an unruly group, although police said the crowd was generally well behaved.
- 2006 To keep the crowd down the city charges admission. There was a fear that the main
party would move to Langdon street. That never happaned and there was no problems.