Halloween is a Boo-tiful Time for Downtown Placemaking

Posted on October 23, 2014 by Lisa Donovan

The air is crisp, trees are ablaze with color, and pumpkins are everywhere just waiting to be carved into spooky designs. It’s the perfect time to scare-up a Halloween-themed event to draw people into your downtown.

Northville-Skeletons-Alive-3-blogCommunities all across Michigan have found unique ways to do just that. The event can be as simple as trick-or-treating at local businesses or as elaborate as Northville’s month-long Skeletons Are Alive creation. For the past four years, the city’s DDA has scattered skeletons all over town in whimsical poses. You might find them dancing, scuba diving or stirring up a pot of some unknown concoction. A walking map guides residents and visitors to the location of all the skeletons, which just happen to be in and around many of the city’s charming shops and restaurants.

Plymouth-Pumpkin-Palooza-blogIn nearby Plymouth, the DDA’s Pumpkin Palooza takes over downtown on a Sunday near Halloween. The streets are closed to make room for a variety of games and activities for young and old alike. Kids and pets don their best costumes and compete for prizes. And families fill the streets to enjoy live entertainment and games ranging from candy trail and zombie throw to pumpkin bowling. All the games are presented by downtown businesses.

Boos, Brews & Brats is the catchy title of Manistee’s Halloween festivities. The DDA keeps kids busy with movies, pumpkin painting and costume contests, and the ever-popular trick-or-treating. Adults can join in the fun, too, with a Zombie 5K Run, pie eating contest, and even a .5K Zombie Pub Crawl.

Franklin---Franklinstein2014-blogFranklin’s Franklinstein Frenzy puts a “scary” twist on their all-day event, framed by spooktacular merchant savings. Activity maps available at Farmhouse Coffee and Ice Cream fill residents and visitors in on the Frenzy’s lineup – everything from a parade, trick-or-treating, games and activities and even pony rides. The event wraps up with the hilarity of a pumpkin roll on Franklin Sledding Hill.

Fenton adds an artistic element to the city’s Halloween celebration. The day kicks off with a costume parade through downtown. Participants can then warm-up and fill-up with goodies at a party, where they can also stroll through the Halloween Art Show. The show gives local children a chance to show off their artistic talents. Attendees vote for the winning artist in each age group, and winners head home with cash prizes donated by a local business.

Holly---Halloween-Cruise-spooky-car-blogAlong with traditional Halloween activities, Holly gets antique cars into the act. The DDA hosts a Halloween Cruise to Downtown Holly with costume contests, music, 50/50 drawings … and cars. The Best Spooky Car drives off with a prize. And everyone is encouraged to come early to explore downtown’s unique shops and boutiques and eat at one of Holly’s awesome restaurants.

In downtown St. Sault Marie, a charity benefits from some of their Halloween fun. Everyone looks forward to the trick-or-treating, hayrides, children’s carnival, costume contest and the Soo Theater Haunted House. But there is also a way to give back to the community with the Zombie Walk for Autism.

Marquette---Halloween-Spectacle-2-blogMarquette’s Halloween Spectacle is aptly named. As darkness descends on the city, costumed revelers join processions from many city locations and converge on downtown’s Marquette Commons for a large-scale outdoor community performance. This year, with the theme Spirits of the Lake, the audience will be treated to ghost puppets, dancing, musical performances, zombies from the deep, and much more. A spooky time will be had by all.

Get Your Special Event On

For more ideas on how special events can draw people to your community – at Halloween or any other time of the year – check out the Special Events chapter in the League’s new book, “The Economics of Place: The Art of Building Great Communities.” Details and ordering information are available here.

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