The City of Madison canceled Freakfest for the third year in a row.
“In the past few years, the City has moved away from a formal/sanctioned event for Halloween, also known as Freakfest, and again there will be no formal event this year,” the city said in a press release.
The annual Halloween festival was canceled for the past two years due to the pandemic. Alder Mike Verveer (District 4) attributed lower attendance and the cost to taxpayers as reasons for this year’s cancellation.
“This is a continuation of the thought process when the pandemic began,” Verveer told the Wisconsin State Journal. “Perhaps Freakfest on State Street has outlived its useful life.”
Verveer said the city considered canceling Freakfest before the pandemic, also citing safety as a factor. Parks Division spokesperson Ann Shea said the event had flaws from before the pandemic.
“The City has determined, even before the pandemic, Freakfest was failing and entailing significant public cost and declining interest by promoters,” Shea told WPR.
Mayor Rhodes-Conway spent months consulting with city staff and other interested parties prior to deciding to cancel the festival, according to Verveer. Local officials and state street businesses have not agreed on whether or not gating the street and ticketing the event are beneficial.
Freakfest reported selling 14,800 tickets during its last event in 2019, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
Verveer said there will be an increased police presence downtown on Halloween night, also noting a glass ban on State Street throughout the weekend.
“We anticipate there will be — as in the tradition — thousands of people gathering on State Street,” Verveer said. “There was an increased police presence last year, and that’s absolutely the plan again this year. We are proceeding cautiously and practically.”