Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 50 / 14 December 2017
 

Castro Halloween fears fizzle

NEWS


m.bajko@ebar.com

Supervisor Bevan Dufty. Photo: Rick Gerharter
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A lackluster turnout at a Castro meeting about Halloween this week is a sign that fears about the holiday are subsiding in San Francisco's gay neighborhood, city and neighborhood officials said this week.

The Entertainment Commission and District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty held a community forum Monday, October 6 at the Eureka Valley Recreation Center to discuss plans for this year's holiday and only 12 people showed up, most of whom lead neighborhood groups. Half of the meeting focused on complaints about parking restrictions during last weekend's Castro Street Fair rather than people's concerns about Halloween.

"This is a good sign. If Halloween was higher on people's list of concerns, we would have had more people here," said Steve Clark Hall, president of the Eureka Valley Promotion Association, a Castro-based residents group. "To me this says people have more confidence things are under control and are not as concerned about it."

The small-sized crowd was in sharp contrast to the standing-room only scene at a similar meeting held last October, where numerous Castro residents blasted city officials for their handling of Halloween that year. Due to the violence and mayhem that had marred the annual street gathering in the Castro since 2002, city officials shut down the gay neighborhood at 10 p.m. the night of October 31.

Plans for an alternative event near the ballpark had fallen through, and city officials were determined not to have a repeat of shootings and stabbings in the Castro Halloween night. They forced bars and clubs to close early and refused to block off the streets. The city also financed a "Home for Halloween" public relations campaign to keep people from coming to San Francisco, and instead, stay in their own neighborhoods.

With Castro bars not facing a similar shutdown this year, and the city's plans to hold a free event near the Giant's ballpark moving forward, much of the impassioned debate over Halloween has dissipated, said Dufty.

"There is a huge difference between shutting down a neighborhood and implementing a plan to spread people across the city," said Dufty. "This year, I think people are hopeful the city will be successful in spreading out the celebration. Last year, there was a lot more uncertainty."

Steve Adams, president of the Castro merchants group, said he believes Halloween night in the Castro will be violence-free.

"Because of last year people think it is going to be a buzz-kill this year. I don't think a lot of people are going to come to the Castro," he said.

The poorly attended meeting does not mean people haven't any strong opinions when it comes to Halloween and whether the city should allow the Castro street party to return. Entertainment Commission President Audrey Joseph spent several hours at the city's Halloween booth at the Castro Street Fair and heard an earful from people on both sides of the debate.

"We were being totally attacked. Half the people said, 'We hate you! You killed Hallloween!' The other half said, 'We hate you! Why haven't you killed Halloween?' Only one woman came up and asked where she could take her teenage sons on Halloween," said Joseph, who is helping to coordinate the city's waterfront party this year.

Those set to perform at the event in parking lot A next to the baseball stadium include dance diva Martha Wash, Sonic Bloom, Latin All Stars, and John Santos. Disney will be promoting its new animated film Bolt and numerous drag performers have agreed to perform.

The event will begin at 4 p.m. and end at 11:30 p.m., at which time a parade of art cars, dance troupes, and lighted floats will lead attendees back to the Embarcadero BART station to catch the last train out of the city.

"We are trying to draw an eclectic mix of people down there," said Joseph.

For more info on the city's event, visit www.sfhalloweenfestival.com.






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