The Downtown Merchants Association (DMA) is moving forward with plans to hold its own version of Spookfest — the Halloween trick-or-treat venue that has attracted thousands to the city for the past decade.
The Pacific Area Chamber of Commerce, which created and hosted the event for 12 years, said they would no longer hold the annual Halloween booth and candy giveaway due to lack of participation.
After a meeting of the DMA, business owners voted to host the event on Halloween on the downtown streets with a new name — Monster Fest.
Monster Fest will be held on Halloween, Thursday, Oct. 31, from 5 to 8 p.m.
Michael Gallagher, Gallagher Heating and Cooling, is event chair. The Pacific Partnership, whose mission is downtown development, will be the official sponsor of the event.
The evening’s activities will include the traditional scary booths, street music, painted store windows and the customary candy give-away. A paranormal who specializes in identifying ghosts also will be on hand.
Speaking at the Oct. 1 board of aldermen meeting, Gallagher asked officials to close off two sections each of St. Louis and Union streets from 5 to 8 p.m. to give trick-or-treaters and their families free use of the streets.
East Union Street will be closed from First to Columbus streets. West Union will be closed from First to Fourth streets.
East St. Louis Street will be closed from First to Olive, and West St. Louis will be closed from First to Fifth. First Street will remain open.
Because so many downtown businesses have signed on to participate, there will be walkers on both St. Louis and Union streets, said Gallagher, who requested that the police department have crossing guards at Union and First and at St. Louis and First streets for the three hours between 5 and 8 p.m.
Chief Matt Mansell said he would be able to accommodate that.
“I can supply two officers,” Mansell said. “But Halloween is a busy time for us. We’re in the subdivisions that evening where there are kids in the streets.”
In keeping with the tradition of Spookfest, businesses, civic groups and individuals who wish to set up Halloween booths in the street, can begin building their booths at noon. There is no fee to set up a booth.
Looking at the history of other downtown street events, Gallagher said his group believes Monster Fest will be even larger in downtown than it was in the city park.
Aldermen approved the request to close off the streets and included in the action that the city would provide porta-potties for the event.
Gallagher also requested that aldermen increase the $2,500 that the Pacific Tourism Commission had budgeted for candy by $1,500 for the event for a total of $4,000.
“We think there will be a very big crowd,” he said.
The event chair also noted that all of the organizations plan to buy candy to be distributed during the event locally.
“We’re going to buy all the candy in Pacific,” Gallagher said.
Alderman Carol Johnson, who has been working with the downtown group to organize the event, urged her fellow aldermen to approve the requests to give planners time to put it all together.
“We have a very short time line here,” Johnson said. “This is the one event that represents children. It’s important that we don’t let it die. Next year we’ll have our feet on the ground.”
Following a motion by Ed Gass, seconded by Walter Arnette, aldermen voted to take $2,500 from the tourism regular budget and take $1,500 from the tourism reserve funds.
Alderman Mike Bates said the decision by the downtown business owners to keep Spookfest alive was commendable.
“I want to commend the players for making sure this event isn’t dropped,” Bates said. “It’s commendable that they’re bringing it to downtown.”
A flap was raised after the meeting because organizers included in their request that aldermen approve the use of tourism funds to buy candy without making the request to the tourism commission.
Mayor Herb Adams said because the Spookfest candy was included as a line item on the tourism commission annual budget and Arnette is board liaison to Tourism, aldermen probably thought the downtown business group had obtained the approval and recommendation of the tourism commission to spend the funds.
Adams said he would unwind the request and send it back to the tourism commission.
“I don’t take this lightly,” he said. “The tourism commission has a role to play and I respect that.”
Adams said the misstep on the timing of voting on the candy funds was an honest mistake that must fall at the feet of the board of aldermen and the mayor.
“In no way does this reflect on the downtown business group and the work they’re doing for this event,” he said. “The burden to correct this is on us.”
The mayor also said he did not feel that the misunderstanding would affect the success of Monster Fest.
“Spirits between the residents and civic leaders are high right now,” Adams said. “In spite of any differences caused by timing of this request I think this is going to be a successful event that will continue into the future.”