The stage is set, and the bass of the beat blares throughout the crowd of several thousand people. Witches, clowns and pop culture icons like Wonder Woman stroll down the bricks, props in hand. 

Police officers line the street, and students stroll in and out of bars, to and from house parties to the huge annual celebration that spans almost the entirety of Court Street. 

Spending fall in Athens often draws those images of Athens’ famous Halloween block party.

But those images of Halloween weren’t always a mainstay of Athens. In fact, Halloween used to be so tame that it barely even garnered any media attention in the years before the first block party.

In 1974, students trapped a Baskin Robbins tractor-trailer, and those in costume took over the streets for two hours, ultimately starting the modern Athens Halloween Block Party.

“Last night’s full moon brought out all the crazies…” a 1974 Post report reads.

But in the five years leading up to that street takeover, Halloween was much quieter. In some cases, it was actually partnered with Homecoming.

In 1971, the focus was geared more toward Homecoming and the festivities and protests that came with it.

“It was a terrible Homecoming if you hate festive crowds,” a Nov. 1 Post photo caption reads.

In 1969, the weekend of festivities was coupled with Dads Weekend. The theme of the three-day event was “Gruesome Twosome: My Dad and I.”

The weekend began with a varsity band show and featured formal visitation with academic deans and administrators. Some residence halls even sponsored a “Casino Party” and a “Playboy Bunny Club Party.”

Other Halloweens were geared more toward children and families. One event in 1969 included Cigam the Magician — or magic spelled backward. The event was part a Children’s Program in Baker Ballroom and brought a large crowd.

Oktoberfest also came to be in the early 1970s, generating most of the buzz around Halloween celebrations at the time. Homecoming was partnered with the fest in 1971 and 1972. The Carpenters performed at the 1971 Oktoberfest and drew a crowd of more than 12,000, according to a Nov. 1, 1971, photo caption.

A photo essay in 1972 also captured the spirit of Oktoberfest, which was the closest to a Halloween spectacle that year. The 1972 event was particularly overshadowed by politics. Former President Richard Nixon visited Ohio in late October in 1972, garnering most of the public’s attention as opposed to a Halloween spectacle.

The next year, the most attention drawn to Halloween was to sorority carollers on the front page of the Oct. 31 edition of The Post.

The carollers “invoked the ‘great pumpkin’” as they paraded around Athens by candlelight, according to the Oct. 31, 1973, photo caption.

The next year would bring the first hint of a Halloween takeover, and the block party became an Athens tradition not long after. In 1976, more than 500 people took to the streets after they left the bars, and the street was closed just after 11 p.m., according to a previous Post report. 

Since then, the party has grown to 10,000 attendees and more, and draws a large crowd from other schools and throughout the state. 

The days of calm Halloween carollers are long over.


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