September 25, 2015
That’s right – and what a “world capital” it is.
Just northwest of Minneapolis, you will find Anoka, a town whose name means “where two rivers meet” because it’s where the Mississippi and the Run Rivers come together. Quietly unhurried, it often reminds me of the quintessential small town you might see in a Hollywood film.
That is, until Halloween. Don’t believe me? Check it out!
As the story goes, Anoka is believed to be the first city in the United States to put on a Halloween celebration to prevent local teens from doing yet another Halloween prank. When Anokans awoke to find their cows roaming Main Street, their windows soaped and their outhouses tipped over, they decided something had to be done.
So, in September of 1920, more than 1,000 costumed children marched in their first Halloween parade followed by a community bonfire. Then, in 1937, 12-year-old, Harold Blair, donning a sweater embellished with a “Halloween capital” insignia, carried with him to Washington, D.C. a proclamation naming Anoka the “Halloween Capital of the World,” and it became official!
It’s probably worth noting that, having grown up in Anoka, I absolutely love Halloween! Costumes, candy parties – what’s not to love?! I suppose it’s in my blood. And, until I left for college, I didn’t really get that my experience with Halloween was unique. We celebrated for weeks and usually had more than one costume — which was awesome for those of us with overflowing creativity as a kid.
Each year, everything kicks off with the appearance of “Blinky,” as my kids refer to the huge orange-neon winking pumpkin that sits high atop City Hall. He signals the arrival of their favorite holiday — second only to Christmas, I’m sure.
The month-long celebration now includes the “Orange Tie Ball,” a house-decorating contest, a haunted house tour (where, speaking from experience, you’re sure to see ghosts hanging out in some of the oldest homes in the area!), the “Light Up the Night” parade and more. It all culminates in the Grand Day Parade on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, which opens with the Gray Ghost 5K featuring costumed runners.
My favorite memories were of walking in the “Big Parade of the Little People,” wearing coordinated costumes with my friends, and then participating in the Grand Day parade. Nearly 70,000 spectators set up blankets and chairs the night before to make sure they have the perfect spot to watch the huge parade, which features floats, bands, dancers, and area royalty all dressed in their Halloween costumes. Last year even included an appearance from the Ghostbusters!
But the best memory? My first date with my now-husband — my high-school sweetheart — was at the Pumpkin Bowl and Halloween dance when we were sophomores.
So, if you’re looking for a new way to celebrate Halloween this year, check out the Halloween Capital of the World. But make sure to get your blankets and chairs out early, or you may be stuck 10 people deep, candy-less!
September 25, 2015