I don’t know that most people are aware of the fact that one of our little cities in the northern ‘burbs is kind of a big deal when it comes to Halloween. I’m talking about Anoka and their claim to fame as “The Halloween Capital of the World.”
Yes, Anoka, and yes, Halloween Capital of the WORLD.
I wondered if this was a marketing ploy, but after doing a little research (the first parade was organized back in 1920 as a way to “divert its youngsters from Halloween pranks”) and attending the annual Grand Day Parade last year, I can vouch that the parade alone is worthy of the title. It became pretty apparent pretty quickly that this town really knows how to celebrate Halloween.
It was cold last year—like winter jackets, hats, and gloves kind of cold—and yet thousands of spectators lined the streets and festive parade participants walked, ran, and rolled down the 1.5-mile route. I think the parade lasted more than two hours. (Seriously!) Whereas some parades seem downright pathetic in their parade-ness (blink and you miss it), this one has to actually turn parade applicants away. More than 200 floats, bands, and dignitaries participate.
Every year there’s a theme (it’s pumpkins this year), and no gore, blood, or violence is allowed, playing into their mission to be “kid-friendly.” (For what it’s worth, no political campaigning is allowed, either, unlike many popular parades.) If you want to participate, you actually have to put some effort into your parade entry—you can’t just drive a plain ol’ car or truck down the street in the hopes of generating some advertising. The more creative and Halloween-ish the entries are, the better. (Just, you know, not scary Halloween-ish.)
My family had so much fun last year, we’re going this year, too.
• The Grand Day Parade begins at 1 p.m. this Saturday, October 25. The entire parade route can be found here.
• Parking is a bit of a nightmare (pun intended!), so arrive early or prepare to walk many blocks. Parade organizers estimate 40,000 people turn out every year. (Fun fact: That’s more than double the population of Anoka!)
• In addition to the Grand Day Parade, there’s a whole slew of events planned in Anoka throughout the month of October. The more popular ones include the Light Up the Night Parade (complete with a bonfire) that was held October 18 this year, the Big Parade for Little People—with more than 3,000 costumed Anoka schoolkids marching down Main Street, scheduled to begin at 1:15 on Friday, October 24, and the Gray Ghost 5K Run prior to the start of the parade October 25. Serum’s in downtown Anoka will host a block party on both October 24 and 25 with live music and a costume contest, and then the Anoka American Legion will join in the fun on Halloween with a “Monster Mash” from 8 p.m. to midnight, complete with a DJ and hors d’oeuvres, dancing, and a costume contest.
• Being the “Halloween Capital of the World” is such a big deal, Anoka has their very own dedicated website (not just some little tab on another website). For more information, visit anokahalloween.com and get into the spirit of this fun holiday!