During the last weekend of October, a congregation of Boulderites disguise themselves as zombies and monsters, princes and princesses, and other outrageous creatures on the Pearl Street Mall.
On Halloween weekend, citizens of Boulder and other neighboring cites come out in costume and celebrate the holiday by partying up and down Pearl Street. Starting in the 80s, Mall Crawl was originally one big party. People swarmed Boulder to drink, socialize, dance, play music, having all kinds of fun—until one year it got out of hand.
Mall Crawl became more than a local celebration. People from Denver and places all over the country came to Boulder for this wild celebration. Jonathan Sackheim, was in his early tweens when Mall Crawl was at it’s height.
“I remember hearing about this really awesome party that people from all over came in to party. I wanted to go so bad,” Sackheim said. “In 1989 it reached 40,000 people, I heard it was so crowded, it was shoulder to shoulder.”
After the crowd reached large numbers, the Boulder Police and the city decided to shut down Mall Crawl, and they were effective—until 2009. That year, Sackheim, along with Ryan Van Duzer and the help of a few Mall Crawl veterans brought it back. But this revival was not without problems. The Boulder police came to Duzer and Sackheim’s door, asking them to sign releases. They threatened them with hefty fines if they brought back Mall Crawl.
“It was as if they had post traumatic stress disorder about its [Mall Crawl's] past,” Sackheim said.
Despite threats, Sackheim and Duzer pushed on with their plans and Boulder Police continued to silence them. The police attempted to censor who was allowed on Pearl Street by barricading downtown Boulder. Only citizens with proper identification were allowed in, according to interviews taken shortly after. The American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU] stepped in after they found that the Boulder Police were violating the rights of free speech.
“We thought it was very unconstitutional that the police and the city said locals only, so the ACLU stopped that,” said Judd Golden, chairman of the Boulder County chapter of the ACLU.
With the help of the ACLU and the lingering desire from Boulderites, Mall Crawl wormed its way back into the traditions of the city, and this tradition continues every year.
“It’s a historic tradition that brings the community together,” Sackheim said. “It’s a big plus to keep traditions alive.”
This year, the Mall Crawl was held on Saturday Oct. 29. With steady numbers the past few years, there was an uncertainty of how many people would attend this year’s bash.
“I think it’s comparable to the past,” Sackheim said. “It’s bigger when Halloween falls on a Friday or Saturday.”
Boulder Police prepared for the event by setting up a command station around Pearl Street and employing a large amount of officers for the event.
“When it grows into large numbers, we have had problems,” said Boulder Police Sgt. Fred Gerhardt. “When [attendance] stays low, it’s passive but quite entertaining.”
Mall Crawl continues to be a success, but according to Boulder locals and Mall Crawl veterans, Candi Ayers and Connie Weller, it’s pretty tame compared to past celebrations.
“It’s nothing like it used to be,” Weller said. “It was like cattle to a wall, you couldn’t move.”
With the Ghostbusters’ car roaming the streets, princesses, zombies, witches, roller derby girls, furry creatures, mad hatters and more—it’s hard to imagine it being even crazier. Ayers said she thought it could.
“I want them to make it busier,” Ayers said, “They used to have Mall Crawl T-shirts, and they should do awards for costumes. People need to relax more, this is fun.”
Saturday started off slow, but by 11 p.m., it had begun to pick up. Several street performers, musicians, and merchants stayed out late for the increased volume of people galavanting up and down the mall.
“People have the most amazing and creative costumes you can imagine,” Sackheim said.
With it’s past as a precedent, Mall Crawl is one Halloween Party you don’t want to miss. But if you did, don’t worry. For those who party hard and others who haven’t yet gone out, a second Mall Crawl will be held Monday, Oct. 31, on Halloween night.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Crystal Anderson at Crystal.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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