The modern Athens Halloween Block Party began in 1974 with a street takeover spurred by a rowdy bar crowd that trapped a Baskin Robbins delivery truck, halting traffic for hours.

A full moon, an innocent ice cream delivery and a rowdy uptown bar crowd proved to be the perfect recipe for the first Court Street takeover: the beginning of the modern Athens Halloween Block Party on Oct. 31, 1974.

A costumed crowd flocked from the bars to West Union Street that night, where they trapped a semi-truck attempting to make a delivery to Baskin Robbins, effectively halting traffic on neighboring Court Street. The street was blocked for about two hours around midnight, according to a previous Post report.

“Last night’s full moon brought out all the crazies,” began a caption for a Post front page photo that captured Athens’ first taste of Halloween weekends to come.

The following year was mild, with no documentation of Halloween celebrations on or near Court Street, perhaps due in part to Homecoming being held on Halloween weekend.

With 1976 came a renewed interest in Halloween festivities, and party-goers flooded from the sidewalks and bars to the street, which was closed shortly after 11 p.m.

The swarm reached more than 500 people, much less than the large crowds the block party brings today, but it still managed to garner a decent spread in the yearbook, which can be found in the Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections at Alden Library.

“I was pushing through a mob in an attempt to leave (a bar) when some guy in a loin cloth picked me up and carried me out,” a quote in the 1976 Spectrum Green yearbook reads.

Barbra Streisand, David Bowie and a fairy godmother who “zapped” people with an aluminum foil wand were among the costumes mentioned in the yearbook.

The Athens Police Department was frustrated by the masqueraders' illegal occupation of the streets and wanted to clear them. Meanwhile, former Athens Mayor Donald Barrett was busy taking pictures with costumed students and refused to allow the police to stop the celebration.

Halloween festivities were sanctioned by the city and the university a year later, and again in 1978.

The “Community Halloween Festival Night,” as it was called, had the atmosphere of a county fair, according to a previous Post report. 

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At the event, a total of 17 city and university organizations set up booths and the Marching 110 performed, followed by a group of female senior citizens called the “Athens County Kitchen Swingers.” OU Food Services even provided a giant cake, according to a previous Athens NEWS article.

Though the celebration in 1978 was relatively quiet with minimal damage, 124 people out of an estimated 12,000 in attendance were arrested. Fourteen of those arrested were OU students.

The number of arrests and large influx of out-of-towners concerned city and university officials, resulting in a loss of community designation from the city and university sponsorship for the party.

Due to a scheduling error, Parents Weekend was held during Halloween weekend in 1979. In an attempt to curb the Court Street crowd, the university hosted a party in The Convo.

About 4,000 people flocked to The Convo, but the celebration was short-lived. The number dwindled to 500 after the Marching 110 finished its performance and uptown streets were forced closed again.

“It appeared most of the fears of the city and university were realized as students generally ignored the OU administration-sponsored party in the Convocation Center and joined the large wave of out-of-towners Uptown,” a previous Post report stated.

In 1980, a student group that called themselves S.H.I.T. (Save Halloween in Town) tried to organize Halloween festivities in September, but gave up weeks before the event due to a lack of support from the city and the university.

The 1980 Spectrum Green yearbook referred to the block party that year as “rowdy,” described costumes of “dubious taste” and dubbed the event “Mardi Gras of the Midwest.”

Following years saw various groups, including Student Senate and the Athens Clean and Safe Committee, vying to organize Athens Halloween until 1990, when the City of Athens officially recognized the block party.


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