Anoka Minnesota puts on a huge Halloween celebration every year. While I have not had the opportunity to participate, I have heard about it and driven through the town during Halloween week. It’s a big deal. Really. Big. Deal.
Halloween and Community
While browsing my public library for books on the upcoming Halloween holiday, I ran across this local history text and found a few fun quotes about Anoka and Halloween. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the history of this celebration is the amount of community building that it provides – even during difficult times like the great depression.
“For most children in the early decades of the twentieth century, Halloween was a night for trouble making. The children of Anoka and their friends from the surrounding communities took this idea to a whole new level.”
“On the morning after Halloween, 1919, early risers in Anoka, MN were greeted by an astonishing sight. Cows, it seemed, had taken over the town! Bovines were browsing everywhere...in September of 1920 the citizens of Anoka turned to influential men in the community to see how to best avoid a repeat of the previous year’s trouble.”
“The following decade of the economic depression that devastated the nation affected Anoka, but the hard times did not dampen their spirits when it came to Halloween. The 1930s brought a series of new events to the Halloween celebration, including an activity that acted as a form of group therapy, the burning of Old Man Depression.“
In the interest of fairness, I must mention the tragic events leading up to the Anoka Halloween parade controversy. In 2012, bullying of GLBT students in the Anoka schools lead to several suicides and a lawsuit, which made big headlines. It also spurred the creation of an Anti-Bullying task force and the non-profit Justin’s Gift. Unfortunately, Justin’s Gift was denied entry into the parade of 2012. According to the group’s website Justin’s Gift is hosting a Halloween party (no mention of the parade) in 2014.
“Justin’s Gift still had a presence at the 2012 Grand Day Parade. The organization had a booth set up in the parking lot of a church on the parade route where they sold t-shirts, buttons, bracelets and other items. Floats from other cities also showed their solidarity with the group by mounting signs next to their waving princesses that read, “We Support Justin’s Gift.””
“Justin’s Gift was able to proudly walk among its community members in the 2013 Anoka Halloween Parade. The group was met with cheers and support from onlookers.”
–History and Hauntings of the Halloween Capital