Halloween 2021 court

People on Court Street in costume

Ohio University students, Athenians and guests enjoyed a subdued Halloween 2021, which was more like a busier-than-usual weekend than the huge block parties of years past.

Without a blocked-off Court Street, traffic went about its way, relagating costumed partygoers to the sidewalk.

In the afternoon, some large parties sprung up along Mill Street and elsewhere in the city. By evening, some larger parties had developed in student housing areas, but were soon replaced around 8 p.m. by a steady stream of revelers bound for the Uptown bars as police began shutting down some of the largest gatherings.

Athens Police Department Lt. Jeff McCall said for the most part, the weekend was “uneventful.”

“There was a bit of a larger crowd than a normal weekend,” McCall said.

Law enforcement was a noticed presence this weekend, with the reprisal of the mounted police who patrolled the Uptown and Mill areas through the night on horseback. The mounted police staged at the West State Street Park.

McCall said he felt the law enforcement presence, although significantly reduced, was enough to handle the crowds throughout the weekend.

“I’d say it was pretty much the right amount to address issues,” McCall said. “It was just the unknown because we’ve gone a couple years now without a sanctioned event — there was no type of restrictions on restaurants and no restrictions on bars.”

Athens County Sheriff Rodney Smith said his office did not receive any requests for assistance from the city. The chiefs said during a preparation meeting that they did not expect to need much assistance from his office, the sheriff said.

“Apparently they were right, we didn't get a call,” Smith said.

Good news for the city was bad news for would-be partiers, though.  Rose Andrews, 21, a junior at OU, stated her feelings bluntly.

“It sucked — it wasn’t the same,” Andrews said. “I miss the concerts on the street. I think it was kind of harder to enjoy it because everyone was trying to make it fun.”

In late September the City of Athens announced there would be no sanctioned Halloween block party this year, citing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic — marking the second year in a row the massive Court Street event has been canceled.

Andrews said she didn't understand the logic behind not hosting the block party.

“Even if it is because of COVID, people still went to bars and parties — I feel like it would have been better almost to have more space for people to gather in your outdoor area than shove people inside bars and houses.”

Athens Mayor Steve Patterson, who made the decision to cancel the block party with City Service Safety Director Andy Stone, declined to comment and directed questions to the police department.

"I wasn't up observing anything so I wouldn't be the best person to speak to about how things went," Patterson said.

Since 1974, the Athens Halloween party that encompasses Uptown and student housing areas has drawn thousands of people to Athens looking for a good time. The HallOUween block party has become an annual staple for students, residents and guests. For the first three years, the event was unsanctioned by any authorities, and was more of a takeover of the streets by revelers, according to the Athens NEWS definitive history of the event.

The city and Ohio University began to sanction the event in 1977, but dropped their sponsorships in 1979 after the 1978 party led to high arrest numbers in 1978. Despite the lack of official recognition, the block party happened anyway. The event continued to grow through the '80s without university or city support until 1990, when the block party was recognized by the City of Athens again.

Selected Quotes:

Brianna Hetrick, Ohio University Alumnus, 25, of Nashville, Tennessee:

“It’s different from a couple years ago. I wouldn’t say it’s worse, it’s definitely less crowded than it’s been in the past couple years. Honestly — it’s more tame and better than the past years.”

Jack Feller, Senior, 22:

“It’s been good, more people than we’ve had in a while. With COVID and everything it’s been low numbers, but it’s good to see people back — saw the horse cops — thank God, because I’m sick of it and just want to get back to normal. Everyone likes booze, and there’s booze on these streets.”

Andrea Poole, 18, Freshman, education major:

“There’s a lot of parties today, more than usual. Like we’re known as a party school but I feel like we’re turning into a bar school. But this weekend there’s been a lot of parties but they’re not as hyped up as they usually are.”

Faith Sparks, 21, Junior, nursing major:

“It’s a good vibe — kinda dead though. 2019 was like crazy, there were people everywhere. Now it’s just dead.”

Melanie Basinger, 21, Senior, business major:

“I think it’s less crowded than previous years. But I guess the bars were packed last night. Less horse cops, less crowded, not as crazy.”

Gavin Meyers, 24, Ohio University student:

“I came here in the class of 2019, so I came in 2014 and there like block parties and stuff around here — it was a lot more populated I guess. I went to Court Street Saturday night, and it was was pretty busy. People were going out having fun costumes on.”

Chelsea Langlois, 28, Athens

"They were tamer than expected. I worked at Tony's and I didn’t have to kick anyone out, people were generally well behaved. There was a pretty significant amount of police on horses patrolling."

Carly Leatherwood, Ohio University spokesperson, said previously that students residing on campus would not be permitted to have guests stay with them on Halloween weekend, and parking was not be permitted on campus.

In a statement Monday, Leatherwood thanked students for having a safe weekend.

"Safety and security is always the University’s top priority, and we are proud of our Ohio University students who celebrated responsibly this past weekend," Leatherwood said.

In 2019, the last year the university allowed residential students to have guests, 956 guests registered to stay in the residence halls. That was a smaller number than in previous years, Leatherwood said.

When Athens holds an in-person event, the typical annual total cost of the weekend to Ohio University is approximately $115,000, Leatherwood said in an email. Expenses related to Halloween include costs associated with “green jackets,” or volunteers who serve as an additional presence on and around campus during Halloween, Leatherwood said. She also pointed to costs associated with door watchers and overtime costs for the Ohio University Police Department, Parking and Transportation, maintenance, grounds and custodial services.

Fewer guests means lower costs, Leatherwood noted.

“While (Ohio University) did have a small number of Green Jacket volunteers on campus this year, we most certainly saw a decreased cost given the City of Athens canceled the event,” Leatherwood said.

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