In spite of cool, dank, weather and a constant drizzle, Monster Fest, the 2013 downtown Halloween celebration, brought streams of umbrella carrying families to the old shopping district.
Mike Gallagher, event chair, and half a dozen of his friends spent the day in pouring rain setting up for the 5 p.m. opening of the event.
At 4 p.m., Gallagher was “wet down to my skin” for the fourth time that day and concerned that some of the promised booth operators might pull out, but still confident that the trick-or-treaters would show up.
Some 48 groups had signed booth forms prior to the event. Due to the rain, some did not participate but more than 20 booths started setting up in the three-block area at 2 p.m.
“I knew the kids would come,” Gallagher said. “In the park, even when it was pouring rain, they still came.”
Gallagher said the turnout was awesome. The Downtown Merchants Association (DMA), which hosted the event, spent a total of $8,700 on candy and gave most of it away. Some $4,000 was provided form the city tourism fund.
“We had only a couple of boxes left at the end of the night,” Gallagher said. “We virtually gave it all away.”
In an informal count, organizers estimated that 1,500 kids visited the event accompanied by an untold number of adults.
“It’s a family event, including my family,” Gallagher said. “I definitely could not have pulled this off without them.”
The Pacific Partnership, whose mission is to help develop the downtown, was the event co-host.
Shortly before 5 p.m., families with costumed youngsters began to trickle in and make their way to the shops and street booths.
By 5:30 p.m., St. Louis Street was filled with a sea of umbrellas and youngsters in costumes that ran the gamut from video game characters Luigi and Mario to ghouls and goblins, fairy princesses, super heroes and animals like a tiny skunk portrayed to 18-month-old old Meyer Farr.
People gathered or stood in lines from the former Leah’s Department Store and the Partnership portable stage on the east to Pacific Foods and the Brengard’s Flooring in the Royal Theater building on the west.
At the Partnership stage, DJ music with a lively beat lured street dancers.
Some booths were definitely scary. The array of moving ghosts in the Cleaning Agents shop at 115 E. St. Louis St. caused more than one young visitor to hesitate.
“I’m afraid,” said Ali Taylor, 8, who stopped in the door until her mother Nicole Scoggins gave her a hug and a nudge toward the candy cauldron.
At the Gateway Brothers construction trailer next door to Reed Insurance, which was tricked out with a black curtain and growling animal, caused some young visitors to back away.
“I don’t want to go in there,” a tiny Superman said, clinging to his father’s arm.
The Chamber of Commerce first established an annual Halloween festival, dubbed Spookfest, in 2000, which was held in the city park.
When the Chamber announced its decision to shut down Spookfest, DMA members asked to establish a similar celebration in downtown, which they named Monster Fest.
One of the prime benefits of holding the event downtown was the comments by some visitors that there were shops on St. Louis Street that they had not known were there.
“That was the whole idea,” Gallagher said. “To promote the downtown.”
DMA Monster Fest committee members said they plan to host the event again next year.
“We would definitely do it again,” Gallagher said. “It was worth every effort.”