The ghosts of Halloween past failed to materialize in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood this year, to the relief of city officials who had feared the worst.
Over the years, the decades-old celebration had grown into a massive event with tens of thousands of costumed revelers, dancing and free entertainment. After a gunman opened fire at last year’s event despite the presence of more than 500 law enforcement officers, city officials decided to put an end to the party.
This year, although no official crowd estimate was given, those in attendance numbered those who came to the Castro at mere thousands and said the mood was barely festive considering the police presence.
Mission resident Amandeep Jawa, dressed as a giant disco ball, said Mayor Gavin Newsom and other city officials “killed Halloween in the Castro.”
“It’s always been one of my favorite things about San Francisco,” Jawa said.
City officials prepared for revelers to ignore announcements that the Castro Halloween celebration was canceled. On Wednesday night, more than 600 police officers and sheriff’s deputies spread out over the neighborhood — starting at Market and Duboce streets — keeping partygoers inside barricades that lined the neighborhood’s sidewalks.
Muni shut down underground rail service to the stations that serve the Castro area, and BART closed its station at 16thand Mission streets at 8 p.m. Earlier in the evening, 15,000 fliers were passed out to those exiting downtown and Castro public transportation stations, said David Perry, a public-relations consultant hired to help shut the event down.
Traffic flowed through the neighborhood, but cars were not allowed to park along the central corridors of Market and Castro streets. The presence of more than 100 portable toilets indicated that city officials expected a crowd.
City planning of the event, according to Newsom, was “without precedent of any event this city has ever had — or not had.”
By 10 p.m., only two alcohol-related arrests were made and more than one-third of the trendy neighborhood’s bars and restaurants began shuttering their doors to patrons, a promise made to The City to help keep the crowds away.
“I’m very humbled that people listened to the message to give the neighborhood a break this year,” said Supervisor Bevan Dufty, whose district includes the Castro.
Some attendees tried to stir up trouble, but didn’t get very far. A group of about 20 people protesting the closure, assembled as a funeral march, tried to get others to join them as they made their way up Market Street to the Castro, with little success.
“We hope Castro Halloween comes back next year,” cried Mark Tyne, who led the procession wearing all black, including a black top hat.