Freakfest Draws Thousands To State Street

Thousands of costumed revelers descended on State Street on Saturday night for Freakfest, the city-approved annual Halloween party, and police said that the event was a success for the fourth year in a row.

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Although temperatures dipped down around 30 degrees, people braved the chilly weather to show off their costumes and take in musical acts that included alternative-rock hitmakers Third Eye Blind, Cage the Elephant, Push Play, Locksley and the Nod, among others.

For the fourth consecutive year, the city of Madison gated off State Street and charged admission to what was previously a spontaneous street event. Frank Productions again organized the event, and organizers said they expected this year’s event to be the biggest Freakfest ever.

Police said that around 44,000 tickets were sold for this year’s party

“From our perspective, everything’s going great. You take a look around, people are in costume; they’re having a good time. We haven’t seen a lot of intoxicated people,” said Joel DeSpain, Madison police spokesman, during the event Saturday night.

Early on Sunday morning, Madison police said that Freakfest again went extremely well this year.

Police said that as of early Sunday, there had been 47 arrests and that most were for minor offenses. The vast majority of people were cited and released, and only two went to jail, police said. Three people were taken to detox units.

“This was the fourth consecutive successful year for Freakfest. There were no major incidents reported in the event area, no significant injuries and no property damage,” DeSpain said in a news release Sunday.

Police said that one reveler was taken to a hospital, with apparent minor injuries, after a police horse spun into him and knocked him down.

In the years before Frank Productions began organizing the event and charging admission, the Halloween celebration sometimes got out of hand and improvised street parties turned into small-scale riots, leading to arrests, property damage and hefty costs for the city and police.

In those days, arrests often climbed into the hundreds, WISC-TV reported.

Police said they were able to scale back the number of police officers on duty for this year’s event.

Even so, around 300 Madison police officers, plus officers from the University of Wisconisn-Madison Police Department, Wisconsin State Patrol, Capitol police and the Dane County Sheriff?s Department, were on hand to keep the party under control.

As with last year, the crowd was made up of a mix of college-age students and older revelers. Police said the “vast majority of the crowd was jovial, well-behaved and responsible.”

The admission prices this year were $7 in advance and $10 the day of the event. The cost of admission is intended to help offset the cost of security and police overtime for the event.

For costumes, superheroes, doctors, nurses, police officers, firefighters, escaped inmates, Nintendo characters and movie characters were all popular choices. Many people dressed as Super Mario Brothers characters or the Joker, and characters from “Saturday Night Live” sketches were also popular.

The glow of a full moon this Halloween sent partiers at Freakfest into a frenzy and yet the number of scares were relatively few.

“What else would you do on Halloween? It’s just a lot of fun,” said Steve Freitag, one of many celebrating on the city’s main drag.

Liz Petershack wore a costume that really tapped into the public’s fears. She was dressed as the swine flu.

“Just talking about it at work and hearing about it in the community and on the radio and it was just going on for months and months, and we thought you know what, let’s make fun of it,” she said.

Considering this year’s event a success, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said he’s listening to make Freakfest 2010 bigger and better.

“We want to hear from people about things that might not have gone as well as they should of and we’ll try to make those corrections for next year,” he said.

Stay tuned to WISC-TV and Channel 3000 for continuing coverage.