CHAPEL HILL CHILLS
The Village People danced in the middle of Franklin Street, in the throes of “YMCA,” arms flailing. Walter Whites in yellow hazmat suits evaded capture from the DEA. Jack Sparrow staggered by as Native Americans whooped war cries.
As a bystander put it, the Chapel Hill watching on Halloween is better than that of the North Carolina Zoo.
Franklin Street, shrouded by night, was overrun with ghouls and cartoon characters as the town shut down a portion of the busy thoroughfare to traffic Thursday night. Halloween was then defined by glazed eyes, short-short skirts, cute couples costumes and photographs with strangers.
(Chapel Hill police estimated the crowd at 30,000 and said the streets were cleared of people at 11:45 p.m. and reopened by 12:45 a.m.)
Nicole Luedin, a UNC dentistry resident, braved the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds in a black and white hoop skirt as a Southern belle. She’s originally from Switzerland, and she said this is her first Halloween in the States.
“I love the ‘Gone with the Wind’ movie,” Luedin said.
There were a few current-event costumes pacing the streets, such as a man dressed as a “Government Shutdown” light switch.
But then there were the usual suspects. The sexy cowgirl baring her midriff. The Scream masks. The Mario video game references.
A group of guys wandered around as the Scooby-Doo gang. When asked who drew the short straw, UNC freshman James Yardley raised his hand. He was dressed as Daphne, in a skin-tight purple dress that clung to his thighs and a green scarf.
“We want to unmask someone,” said Spencer Leger, who went as the Fred of the group.
And “solve some mysteries,” said Matthew Culley, who was Scooby-Doo.
On the sidewalk, Bobby Pearson, 64, and his friend unfolded lawn chairs and sat, holding coffee in styrofoam cups, people-watching as the costumes filtered by.
“The Playboy bunny was really nice,” Pearson said about his costume picks, “and the Miley Ray Cyruses were pretty good. Those are our favorites right now. We’re old, but we’re not dead.”
Police, deputies and highway patrol officers stood in clusters at every street corner, watching the crowds. Checkpoints were set up in the street to check peoples’ bags and make students discard their weapons, fake or otherwise.
Chapel Hill Police Lt. Kevin Gunter said there were about 300 law enforcement officers on hand Thursday night, including from visiting agencies such as the Durham Police Department and State Highway Patrol.
As of 10:30 p.m., they had only responded to one call regarding an intoxicated person on the sidewalk outside of Top of the Hill restaurant. Gunter said there seemed to be a smaller crowd this year.
Throughout the night, UNC freshmen Patrick Wise and Davis Thomas Grubin shuffled around with sailor hats, a pipe and sunglasses. A cardboard rectangle surrounded them, titled, “The Friendship.”
People paused in the street to take photos of them with their smartphones. Wise and Grubin stopped to holler at another boat that shuffled by, a man dressed as a gondola.
“We’re very accepting,” Grubin said. “Anyone can be a member of The Friendship.”