2014 marks the 40th anniversary of the Athens Halloween Block Party, and this year’s party is expected to be the biggest one yet.
Every year, people come in from all over the country to party with Ohio University students and Athens residents alike. That influx of people—the city famously doubles or even triples during that weekend—can create many problems for law enforcement officials as well as anyone on the streets.
Jules Scheiderer, a junior studying journalism and Spanish, was one such person affected by the crowds of previous years.
“One time I was walking through a large crowd, and people actually stole pieces of my costume off of me,” said Scheiderer. “I was a peacock, and I walked into the crowd with however many feathers, and then I walked out of the crowd and most of them were gone because people plucked them right out of my dress.”
Such experiences aren’t uncommon on Halloween. Alex Cenci, a junior studying photojournalism, is another student who had a horror story from a past Halloween.
“I went as a bunny—not a Playboy kind, one of the fluffy tail ones,” said Cenci. “It was probably the least sexy costume in Athens and I still got my ass grabbed.”
That wasn’t the only problem that Cenci has faced during Halloween in Athens.
“Last year, I fainted on Court Street,” said Cenci. “My friend is a big fan of mosh pits, so I went in there with him and all of a sudden my vision started going blurry and began to fade. Luckily, my friend is a pretty big guy and he’s pretty strong, and he ended up carrying me out.”
Athens brings in extra law enforcement for the event, including officers from the Ohio Department of Public Safety. According to OUPD officer David Valentine, every member of law enforcement is on the look out for suspicious behaviors. Officially, the city of Athens distributed a flyer around campus as well as off campus to make sure everyone knows what’s going on.
It included tips for the weekend, such as no costumes that have weapons, regardless of whether or not they’re real, and nothing that appears to be impersonating law enforcement officers. Make sure to keep all laws regarding alcohol in mind—that means no open containers of alcohol on your person, no glass from Union Street to State Street, and no drinking underage.
Officer Valentine, who will be patrolling campus as a bike officer this weekend, noted that the more attention you draw to yourself, the more likely you will be approached by police.
“We look for criminal activity,” said Valentine. “I’ll be looking around for people who may be intoxicated, anyone causing damage to university property or personal property, theft, abuse or use of drugs.”
Scheiderer brought up alcohol as a major reason that people get in trouble during the block party.
“Stay off the sidewalks if you have an open container,” said Scheiderer. “Generally, if you have a cup with you, turn the cup upside down and make sure it’s empty. If you’re on a private property, you’re less vulnerable to being talked to by the police than if you’re on a sidewalk which is public.”
Additionally, the city recommends knowing what officials will be wearing during the party. Police will be both in uniforms and in street clothes, but will be carrying identification regardless. University officials will be wearing green jackets marked “OHIO Staff,” and the city of Athens Safety Team will be wearing white jackets marked as such or orange safety vests.
Past attendees of the block party also have advice for anyone going out this weekend.
“Some safety tips: don’t be screaming, don’t be fighting,” said Scheiderer. “Even if you’re sober or drunk, it doesn’t matter; even if you’re 21, just don’t call attention to yourself. Don’t be belligerent.”
Scheiderer commented on the presence of mounted police—or officers on horses—as well.
“Don’t pet the horses without permission—generally, just probably don’t touch them at all,” Scheiderer said.
Cenci agreed with her about the police on horses.
“That’s like a trap for people,” said Cenci. “If you go and pet the horses, they know you’re drunk, and the police are going to arrest you.”
As far as general safety goes, Officer Valentine wants everyone to have a good time but remain safe while doing so.
“As far as people who are going out to the party, we always recommend that people don’t go alone,” Valentine said. “They should stay in groups and they should stay with people that they know.”
Another thing people may not consider is what to bring with them, such as an ID and other general information.
“Bring an ID with you—that way in case something should happen, we know who you are,” Valentine said. “I also highly recommend that they carry an emergency contact number if something should happen to somebody. We don’t know people’s health concerns or health history, things like that, if something bad were to happen.”
Something that freshmen or people coming into Athens may not be aware of is the need for a specific meeting place during the weekend. Also, everyone should remember the general rules of going out for a weekend.
“Most people have cell phones these days, but with the amount of people that are here during Halloween, the cell towers do get jammed up pretty well, so the use of cell phones may be restricted or not be available at all,” said Valentine. “Also, stay in well-lit areas and no open containers—it’s not a good time to be intoxicated in public.”
In light of recent international events, students are reminded to stay mindful of their surroundings and to be tasteful in what they choose to wear.
“Like always, dress for safety and don’t wear anything to impersonate an officer and don’t have anything that can even be confused as a weapon,” Valentine said. “Also, I would love for people to remember that there’s been a lot of instances of violence and terrorism in the news. Think briefly about costume selection.”
If students see any suspicious activity or anything that doesn’t feel right, they should report it to the police. Even with the extra people coming in, OUPD predicts between 10,000 and 30,000 people will attend the events of this weekend, so law enforcement can’t monitor every single thing that happens. Officer Valentine also reminds students that if they’re not interested in drinking or partying this weekend, they should look for activities in dorms or on campus where they can be sober and safe.
Regardless of your plans for this weekend, as long as you use common sense and avoid doing things to get in trouble, everyone should have a safe and enjoyable HallOUween weekend.