U students haunt Madison

It looks as though Madison has finally exorcised the demons of its Halloween past.

In a longstanding tradition of debauchery, drunks, scanty costumes and excrement, the University of Wisconsin and the city of Madison, Wis., brace themselves for yet another Halloween on State Street. Just as moths to the flame are University underclassmen flocking to Madison to experience firsthand the heralded night of escape. This year, however, might bring obstacles to those underage drinkers looking for a riot or the perpetual nip-slip.

Halloween in Madison has a turbulent past. From 2002 to 2005, the Saturday night festivities ended when police used pepper spray and tear gas to subdue belligerent mobs that threw objects at police, started small fires and vandalized business storefronts. Along with these antics came a myriad of tickets handed out to party participants. As reported by local news affiliates, in 2005 police arrested 468 participants throughout the weekend. The event cost city taxpayers $600,000, and seemed to be the end of the rope for the mayor, as he threatened to ban Halloween in Madison completely.

Instead of implementing a ban, the city of Madison made Halloween a city-sponsored event. In what now resembles Spring Jam, Madison decided to deter guests by drawing in corporate sponsors such as Mountain Dew, charging entrance fees and showcasing bands like Lifehouse. The new Halloween will end at 1:30 a.m. Saturday, when spectators will be forced to exit fenced-off State Street with heightened security and high-tech cameras keeping watch. Their plans have paid off. In 2006, the newly dubbed “Freakfest” attracted around 35,000 people, nearly half of the previous year’s attendees – none of whom were pepper sprayed or tear gassed by police. The city continues the commercialized Freakfest this year in hopes of subduing those who would want to cause trouble.

It looks as though Madison has finally exorcised the demons of its Halloween past. We doubt Halloween will ever be the same in Madison, which is probably a good thing for the city. However, just because an event has been officially commercialized doesn’t mean the students won’t find a way to party.

We wish you all a great Halloween weekend and we hope all of you will be smart and safe, wherever you are.