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Halloween on Central conjures 100,000 souls

Veronica Brezina

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Halloween on Central. Image: St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership's Facebook page.

The streets in the heart of downtown St. Petersburg were filled with witches, ghosts, ghouls and their four-legged friends during Sunday’s second annual Halloween on Central event

Halloween on Central. Image: St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch’s Facebook page.

From noon until 5 p.m., a total of 22 blocks from 9th to 31st Street were closed off to vehicular traffic as participants strolled the family-friendly streets trick-or-treating at local businesses, braving a haunted house attraction and watching a flash mob dance to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” which garnered thousands of views on social media. 

Halloween on Central. Image: St. Pete Pride’s Facebook page.

According to the Edge Business District Association, which based its estimation on cellular data (as it was free, non-ticketed event), the attendance totaled 100,000 this year over the five hours, reaching a peak of nearly 75,000 at 3 p.m.

However, despite drawing large crowds, the association is going to need an all-hands-on-deck approach to continue its success. 

Halloween on Central. Image: St. Pete Pride’s Facebook page.

“This was almost dead in the water. We weren’t sure we were going to be able to have it this year until the last four months,” said David Foote, executive director of the Grand Central District Association, which plans the event. “We need it to be financially sustainable this year, but PSTA [Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority] provided us funds to make it happen.”

 

Foote said he approached PSTA as the organization just celebrated its debut of the SunRunner, the region’s first bus rapid transit service that links rider to and from downtown St. Petersburg to the beaches. 

PSTA contributed $25,000 as the title sponsor for the event. 

 

The event costs total roughly $80,000, with the city covering much of it. 

“We have a year from now to start those conversations on our path forward in continuing this event,” Foote said, noting how he is also appreciative of attendees donating money during the event by way of scanning QR codes. 

The VFW Post 39 created a zombie-themed destination. Image: VFW Post 39’s Facebook page.

Foote said by having a steady funding source, the event can feature more haunted houses and flash mobs. Typically, the very first bill is to cover the costs for public services such as the police, the park and recreation department, fire and rescue, and sanitation. 

The Edge District Business Association’s newsletter also stated that the road closure alone exceeds $50,000. 

“Without PSTA providing half of that this year, we would not have been able to hold the event. So we give great thanks to the PSTA for their support. But it also takes a whole community – we need to thank our awesome event volunteers, businesses who put out their welcome mats, and our sponsors for the Edge activities,” the EDBA wrote. 

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