According to a story in today's SFGate, the City's attempt to create an alternative Halloween event is once again falling apart. You may remember that last year they cracked down on Halloween in the Castro, leading to one of the more depressing Halloweens I can remember, and there was some idea floating around for a while that they were going to do a big party out on one of the piers - you know, in the middle of nowhere, where it's cold. However, the City was unable to put anything together, and so we it was the Year Without a Halloween.
This year Halloween falls on a Friday, so you can bet there will be plenty of people ready to party. And once again, the City has dropped the ball. It seems that they had pretty much the same concept, but were dependent on corporate sponsorship, and charging everyone $31 a pop (why $31, why not $30, or $35) to go to a party with - wait for it - Destiny's Child. Whooo, that sounds like something I'll line up for.
As it turns out they can't get the money they wanted, so they're cutting back on things like tents - you know, things that keep you comfortable if it's rainy and cold. They say no performers have dropped out, but seriously, who is going to go to this, even if it's free?
I haven't mentioned this before, but back in March when I got laid off, I applied for the job of the new event coordinator for the Entertainment Commission. I thought I had a good chance, given the people I had recommending me, my experience with event organization, and having my finger on the pulse of the San Francisco Scene as I do. When I chatted with Audrey Joseph about the job, she told me that it would probably be largely concerned with dealing with things like Halloween. Fine, I thought, I have some ideas around that.
The person they hired (I didn't even get an interview, btw, and they had to extend the application deadline twice before they got what I suppose they considered a good applicant pool), was Laura Fraeza, whose background is in big corporatized events. According to an interview in the Bay Area Reporter, "She plans to use her local connections to bring promoters on board for this year's Halloween celebrations." Well, that's worked out really well, hasn't it?
The problem is that no corporatized event, featuring a lame Top 40 musical act, with an admission fee of $31, will ever attract people in the same way as an unstructured, open street event. And you will never be able to get corporate sponsors to pony up big bucks for an event like Halloween where there's a chance that something could happen that endangers their corporate brand. There is simply no value in being associated with the event in the same way as there is something with inherent cool, drawing a specific demographic, as LoveFest, Pride, the Outer Lands Festival, The Treasure Island Music Festival, Noise Pop, etc.
My suggestion, and the policy I would have tried to implement, is to give Halloween back to the neighborhoods, and encourage neighboring cities, like Oakland, to create events of their own. The reason the Castro got so packed was that it was the only game in town, or even in the area. If every neighborhood came up with their own plan for Halloween and encouraged residents to participate, if Oakland decided to have a Halloween event in Jack London Square, then you would be able to distribue some of the load to different locations. Unfortuantely, I think the City has become convinced that the only way to try and deal with Halloween is to try and control it by putting everyone into the same place, without realizing that no one wants to do that.