As Halloween approaches, Boulder residents may recall last year’s Pearl Street “Mall Crawl,” an informal gathering of about 1,000 people that resulted in property damages to multiple businesses along Pearl Street Mall.
The “Mall Crawl” is a longstanding tradition among Boulder residents. It began in the early 1980s with spontaneous Halloween celebrations on Pearl Street Mall, with crowds growing larger and more unruly each year. Finally, city officials and police shut it down after Halloween 1989 when 40,000 attendees caused property damage. The city banned the event in 1991.
“The reason that it has ended in years past is because it gets so out of hand,” Boulder Police Department Deputy Chief Stephen Redfearn said. “Years ago, the police blocked entrances from traffic to keep people from coming into town because it was so out of control.”
In 2021, Boulder residents attempted to reinstate the event, largely as a response to promotional social media posts, including one on the Barstool Buffs Instagram account. The gathering included about 1,000 people, many of whom the police believed to be college students, according to Redfearn. This large crowd of people began acting disorderly and disrupting businesses, leading to reports of both injuries and property damage.
According to Redfearn, BPD made no arrests due to the high number of attendees; however, many businesses reported damage to outdoor furniture and disruptions to business hours.
“Our officers were quickly overwhelmed,” Redfearn said. “We had to call on additional resources to come and make sure we kept things from getting too out of hand.”
Following last year’s event, many local businesses on Pearl Street have voiced safety concerns.
“The businesses have told us loud and clear that they need to make their customers feel safe to come down and enjoy themselves, spend money and patronize them,” Redfearn said.
With Halloween weekend approaching, students may plan to participate in the tradition once again. The popular Instagram account Barstool Buffs has once again shared content promoting the event, prompting BPD to respond by discouraging students from attending the mall crawl.
Barstool Buffs did not respond to a request from the CU Independent for comment.
“Though some social media accounts have been promoting certain events, there have been no permitted approvals, and any illegal gatherings like this will only hurt city businesses and our community,” BPD wrote in a post shared on Instagram.
BPD plans to increase protective measures entering Halloween weekend, including increasing the number of police officers on Pearl Street and deploying drones for surveillance.
BPD’s social media response has raised controversy among CU students questioning the priorities of the department.
Téa Marder, a senior studying public relations and advertising at CU Boulder, expressed frustration with BPD. Marder noted she noticed a lack of police presence during a string of home invasions and sexual assaults that occurred on her street earlier this semester.
“I didn’t see one cop on our street,” she said. “We were terrified to even go outside of our house when the sun was down.”
BPD found and arrested the 17-year-old suspected of these incidents.
“It actually made me so angry that they would increase police patrol because of a bar crawl when I feel like there are actual pressing matters going on at our school and students’ lives are in danger,” Marder said.
As Boulder residents face the potential of another mall crawl occurring on Pearl street, those both for and against the tradition have some common ground within their hopes for the holiday weekend.
“I’m definitely against any type of vandalization of any sort on Pearl Street,” Marder said. “But I definitely have high hopes for the students here at CU that [the mall crawl] will be laid back without [damaging] any stores. It can be just having a good time with your friends on the street.”
BPD has stated their own similar goals for the weekend.
“We hope that we don’t have to do anything,” Redfearn said. “We hope it’s just a fun night and a fun weekend.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Jessi Sachs at Jessi.Sachs@colorado.edu.