One of the most popular group costumes, as judged by the cheers of the revelers, was a pack of female gymnasts in leotards carrying a huge gym mat that they would set up and use to perform actual routines.
The scent of alcohol emanating from revelers' exhalations overwhelmed the senses upon entering Freakfest on State Street, where nearly tens of thousands gathered on Saturday night to party, listen to music, and show off their Halloween costumes. Mostly communicating through a variety of hoots, hollers, and soccer chants, the masses shouted at every recognizable costume, whether or not they had seen the same Mario and Luigi get-ups a hundred times already.
In this oftentimes ridiculous presidential election year, one omnipresent costume was, of course, that mocking Alaska governor and Republican-vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. The best were those with some sort of twist or exacting attention to detail. One couple went as a gun-toting Sarah and a snomobile suit-clad "first dude" Todd, complete with a baby doll Trig. "Todd Palin" was smoking, and used the doll's mouth as a cigarette holder when posing for pictures. Generally, though many women decided to portray a "sexy" Sarah and either wore revealing clothing or a sash declaring themselves the winners of beauty contests.
As always, many young women opted the "sexy" route, with "sexy" police officers and "sexy" Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz among the most popular. There must have been a sale on these costumes at Ragstock this year.
Let's be honest, "sexy" Halloween costumes have always been a staple of Halloween and most likely always will be, but it seemed that the "sexier" (i.e. less clothing) costumes got, the drunker they also became. Skirts somehow hemmed themselves shorter, and high heels grew to dangerous new heights as "sexy" devils, bunnies, and referees tottered precariously around while being pushed by the flow of the crowd.
O.K., if you want to chug a fifth of Smirnoff with your sorority sisters in your dorm, that's fine, but at least put some pants on before you go out. Most guys do not -- should not -- find you stumbling around wasted and highly-exposed to cool fall weather attractive. All their catcalls do not make them respect you any more than you respect yourselves.
That being said, some of the most creative costumes this year were homemade. One man went as a human disco ball, displayed as a mosaic of mirrored squares on a black body suit, and carried around a small boom box for the requisite dancing. Another couple made giant paper maché heads of Bart and Lisa Simpson, and wore them around with regular clothing that was modified to very accurately represent the cartoon siblings. One man built his own giant Lego person suit that pretty much everyone who walked by complimented. A hilarious group of slapped-together silver cardboard robot costumes scurried around, frenzied and bumping into everyone, claiming they came from "the distant future -- the year 2000."
A little imagination certainly goes a long way on Halloween, err, make that All Saints Day, or Dia de los Muertos, actually.
One of the most popular group costumes, as judged by the cheers of the revelers, was a pack of female gymnasts in leotards carrying a huge gym mat that they would set up and use to perform actual routines. The tumblers would unfold the obviously very heavy mat, start the crowd chanting "U.S.A., U.S.A" and flip, cartwheel, and somersault for a short time until they would quickly fold the mat back up, hoist it over their heads, and run to a new location on State Street to perform all over again.
This marked the third consecutive Halloween celebration on State Street that ended sans riot police and tear gas. Arrests were far reduced even from last year, and there was little trouble to be found elsewhere on the isthmus, including on Mifflin Street, where a group of University of Wisconsin students supported as a site for an alternative party.
As detailed in an incident report issued by the Madison Police Department:
The Madison Police entered Freakfest 2008 with guarded optimism that a "hat-trick" -- three consecutive years without significant injury or property damage -- could be achieved. As of 3:00 a.m. Sunday, November 2, 2008, it would appear that goal has been reached.
It is estimated that more than 38,300 revelers bought tickets for the event, which compares to 34,000 attendees in 2007. This year's crowd was overwhelmingly good natured, responsible, and well behaved. There were a few fights, and there were arrests. However, the number arrested will likely be far below last year's total. The total, as of 2:45 a.m., was 77. Most were for relatively minor offenses.
The only real concern that developed during the night was for the safety of the throngs of attendees who made their way to the main stage for the headline act -- O.A.R. The decision was made to restrict access to the top of State Street after the street reached capacity with a large crowd gathered in front of the stage. The effort was successful and the concert ended well.
Several small house parties were reported in many areas of the Isthmus, including Mifflin Street. There was one that was larger, but it was on Mound Street, and a good distance from Freakfest.
The Madison Police Department, and its' partner city agencies, wish to thank other jurisdictions in making Freakfest an enjoyable, and relatively safe event: the Wisconsin State Patrol, the Dane County Sheriff's Department, the UW Police Department, Capitol Police, the Fitchburg Police Department, the Sun Prairie Police Department, and RTM security.
This outcome is barely any different from what the police reported on Friday night, the actual date of Halloween.
Whether dressed as something gory, funny, or wholly irreverent, everyone in costume at Freakfest was there to put on a show. Combined with copious amounts of booze, the extroverted crowd managed a rowdy good time for itself without getting too out of hand like in the city's calamitous Halloween past.
With this new spirit of Halloween in State Street, it appears as though Madison has once again harnessed its citizens' penchant for public intoxication and exhibitionist spirit to generate an annual new source of income.