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Organizers rename, scale down Halloween party on Franklin Street

November 1, 2018 GMT

The annual Halloween party on Franklin Street attracts thousands every year, but with enormous crowds comes a strong need for safety.

This will be the fourth year Chapel Hill officials have tried to “draw down” the celebration to make it safer. Although the event is only open to Chapel Hill residents, past years have seen crowds as large as 80,000 people.

Town officials say a new name -- Halloween on Franklin Street instead of Homegrown Halloween -- and other minor changes have more than cut attendance in half.

The town, however, does not host the event.

“The Town of Chapel Hill decided to drop the term Homegrown Halloween this year,” Ran Northam with the Town of Chapel Hill told WRAL News. “The term was developed back around 2008 when the crowd numbers got dangerously high. It was developed as a way to encourage people to think of it on a smaller scale—more local. It’s important to note that it’s not a town-sponsored event. This is a crowd gathering that the Town responds to—with the assistance of area partners—with the emphasis on keeping people safe. The Town did put things in place to discourage large numbers of outside attendees from coming, including no charter buses dropping people off downtown.”

Northam said he is not aware of any arrests in recent years during Halloween on Franklin Street.

“This is not a kid-friendly event,” he said. “And again, it’s also not an actual event. It’s a large crowd gathering of people watching. There are no bands, games or anything else designed as attractions. It’s simply a tradition that has formed over the years in Chapel Hill.”

To address the crowd issues, officials restrict traffic into downtown, employ about 200 public safety officers and establish alcohol checkpoints.