SF Entertainment Commission President Solicits Input of Community for Halloween
Goal is to disperse celebrations city-wide
SF Entertainment Commissioner Audrey Joseph speaks to the crowd at the Eureka Valley Promotion Association’s March meeting about the City’s plans for Halloween.
EVPA Treasurer Joe Caruso sits on her left.
By Jaime San Felippo
Halloween is less than seven months away and city officials have already begun to work with community members across the City and in the Castro to figure out the best way to celebrate the area’s most infamous night.
Audrey Joseph, president of the San Francisco Entertainment Commission, attended a meeting of the Eureka Valley Promotion Association (EVPA) on March 21 to speak with Castro business owners and residents to discuss options for the upcoming Halloween celebrations in the Castro – or lack thereof.
Last year the City promoted the “Home for Halloween” campaign, encouraging
residents to celebrate in their own neighborhoods and not flock to the Castro for the annual street party, which had been a tradition for nearly thirty years.
“The one thing that cannot happen is what happened last year,” said Joseph as she took the floor to address the two-dozen meeting attendees. “The cost to the City was monumental and many of the complaints received were from Castro residents that felt like they were imprisoned in a police state.”
Last year the City asked local businesses to close down early on Halloween night. There were also no checkpoints, entertainment stages or portable toilets for revelers to use. There were, however, hundreds of police officers still patrolling the streets for disorder that cost the City nearly $1 million.
The plan worked: only about 2,000 costumed enthusiasts came to the Castro instead of the 200,000-plus that had crammed the neighborhood in years past.
This year Halloween lands on a Friday night, the same day Critical Mass is held. Joseph explained that this could be a big problem “if people come to the Castro or we cannot get the cyclists to change their route so they don’t come to the Castro.”
Joseph has been attending community meetings in each neighborhood of the city to gather ideas on the best way to celebrate. She is encouraging neighborhood organizations and leaders to have their own block parties that will provide activities for young kids, teenagers and adults.
“We’re mostly worried about the 15– 27 year olds,” said Joseph. “We think people will still try to come to the Castro even after last year. So we’re just trying to dilute the number of people coming to this neighborhood.”
One of the most vocal attendees at the EVPA meeting was Vince Quackenbush who, until recently, was a long-time resident of the Castro. Like many, he was dismayed by the violence that had taken over celebrations in recent years and was just as upset when the party was cancelled all together.
“I don’t want 300,000 people in the neighborhood,” said Quackenbush after the meeting. “But I want to see some recognition of the holiday. We have to realize the problem is not
Halloween, but the concentration of so many people in one neighborhood.”
He suggested instead of having one big Halloween party, the City create a weekend-long Halloween fair spread out across the city. Included in his proposal were the ideas of putting 1,000-pound pumpkins on display around the city, having a Halloween parade from the Castro to the Civic Center and having a “cheesy horror film” festival at all the smaller theaters across the city as well as at public parks.
Judith Hoyem has lived in the Castro since 1971 and is nostalgic for the way Halloween used to be: fun, carefree and safe. Hoyem said she is in favor of having another low-key, no-party Halloween.
“Halloween used to be fun until a few years ago, then it just got to be out of hand,” she said. “It just unraveled into a nightmare. None of the neighbors take part in the party anymore, we all just kind of hide out. Last year was a great relief.”
Many at the EVPA meeting attendees shared her sentiments. In an unofficial vote conducted by EVPA President Steve Clark Hall of meeting attendees the vote was clear: come Halloween, they would like to see nothing more in their neighborhood than business as usual.