What to know ahead of “Freakfest” this Saturday

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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV)-- While thousands of costumed people flood downtown Madison for the annual Halloween party on State Street, hundreds of officers, both seen and unseen, will be watching over the event.

On Tuesday, Frank Productions and city leaders outlined 2019’s “Freakfest” plans including street closures, rules, and safety measures.

Frank Productions partnered with the City of Madison in 2007 to bring live music to the event.

Before 2006, Halloween on State Street was not a ticketed event and strained city resources. The event was marked with fires, violence, and for several years in a row, crowds were dispersed with tear gas. In 2005, there were an estimated 100,000 people in attendance and more than 300 arrests. In 2006, the city took control of the event, and renamed it “Freakfest.”

Since becoming a gated and ticketed event, arrests have diminished. In 2018, there were more than 20,000 tickets sold and roughly a dozen arrests.

“Freakfest” will be on Saturday from 7 p.m. until 1:30 a.m. Sunday.

Event Safety
Hundreds of officers will be patrolling downtown Madison during the event. According to Madison Police Department Captain Brian Chaney Austin, a good number of resources went into planning for “Freakfest” and he said countless hours went into planning for this year’s event.

“We’ve made adjustments on our end to make sure we actively patrol areas of downtown, particularly campus ramps that are downtown, some of the alleys, streets, and dead end streets,” said Chaney Austin. “The officers will be out and about, visible and interacting with folks, and making sure we make our presence known.”

Police will be using downtown cameras to monitor activity. According to Frank Productions, more than 100 private security staff was hired to supplement the Madison Police Department for the event.

People are not allowed to drink alcohol outside of bars and restaurants on State Street, and glass is prohibited during the event.

Authorities said backpacks are not permitted in the event area, no weapons, facsimile weapons, or dangerous items will be allowed into the event zone. Only two re-entries are permitted during the event. People without tickets are not allowed into the “Freakfest” area.

Traffic Changes
Streets crossing State Street will begin closing at 5 p.m .for “Freakfest” on Saturday. Those streets include Lake, Johnson, and Dayton Streets. Gorham Street will close at 6 p.m. According to the City of Madison Traffic Engineering Division, all streets will be closed until approximately 3 a.m. Sunday.

North Bassett Street, which has been closed for reconstruction, will be reopened by Saturday.

City officials are warning people to plan ahead this upcoming weekend with both “Freakfest” and UW Hockey occurring at the same time.

“For people that are coming downtown to the event or hockey game, they are encouraged to plan ahead and know where to park,” said Tom Mohr with Traffic Engineering. “Check the parking ramps online to know where they are for capacity.”

Metro Transit routes will also be affected by “Freakfest.” Routes 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 detour in the Capitol Square and State Street areas.

Freakfest event details

“Freakfest” tickets are available online or at local outlets. Those locations include: B-Side Records, Knuckleheads, Ragstock, Sunshine Daydream, The University Book Store, The Soap Opera, Community Pharmacy, Ian’s Pizza, Los Gemelos, The Orpheum Theater, and The Sylvee Box Office.

As of 3 p.m. on Saturday, all tickets must be purchased in-person at the ticket booths on State Street. Will call tickets will be available starting at 4 p.m. Saturday at the ticket booth located at the corner of State Street and Lake Street. They are $10 in advance, or $15 for day of purchase.

According to Frank Productions, a fee is charged to help offset a portion of the costs for police, fire, and city operations. It also helps to bring in musicians to perform at the event.