Wonder Woman, Count Dracula and Super Mario were among the throngs cruising Main Street last night. It was the first ever Downtown Norman Fall Fest and Halloween revelers were out in force. The day dawned chilly and gray, but by dusk skies had cleared, winds had abated and it was a picture perfect autumn evening. Jones Ave. to Gray St. and Peters Ave. to Main St. were closed to vehicular traffic. People of all ages, in costume or not, strolled along the streets and sidewalks enjoying the sights and sounds. DJ Tim Bradford was spinning scary mood music on one corner and most merchants were dispensing trick-or-treat candy to all comers. A large
inflated spider and enormous pirate ship being engulfed by an orange octopus added to the hobgoblin atmosphere.
Every monster known to mankind was roaming the arts district. Lindsey Martin of Scissortail School of Art was painting Elijahwer Piper’s face a ghastly green. His plans for the rest of the evening were diabolical.
“I’m pretty much going to scare the crap out of people,” Piper said. “Heck yeah, I’m having fun.”
Costume contests were being held in three different categories, including pets, with prizes for the winners. At the Santa Fe Depot the Cimarron Opera Company was re-enacting Grimms Fairy Tales with plenty of blood-curdling screams and spine-tingling high notes. Gabriel Bird, DDS, his daughter, Emmerson, and his dog Roxy attended.
“We’re enjoying Fall Fest,” Bird said. “We just got through playing a game at the Rose Rock Veterinary Clinic’s table. My office has a game out here too and we’re giving out tons of candy for everybody.”
A dentist giving out candy, that’s the height of fright.
Early on, a flash mob descended on the corner of Peters and Main. Dozens of dancers including Cat Woman, Marilyn Monroe in impossibly high heels and Cowboy Curtis danced in a circle. A masked rider on a brown stallion appeared and rode toward Norman Arts Council’s Executive Director Erinn Gavaghan, who was standing on the corner. The mysterious rider dismounted and unmasked — it was Gavaghan’s beau, Ryan Hauser. He took the dramatic opportunity to ask for her hand in marriage. DJ Bradford played “All You Need is Love” and the crowd cheered the newly-engaged couple. A lot of street theater was in progress elsewhere, but this romantic drama had all the hallmarks of being the genuine article.
Highly artistic jack o’ lantern carving was being performed in front of the Mainsite Gallery and a clown was making balloon animals for children. The law firm of Carlson and Copeland had their office window decorated with a huge black spider on a web.
“I think this is great,” partner Josh Copeland said. “I love seeing downtown Norman vibrant like this. It will only get better each year as we do it again and again.”
Several nearby restaurants were vending finger food in the street as a bagpipe band serenaded. The atmosphere appeared to be predominantly family-oriented. Crowd size was remarkably large and reminiscent of the Norman Music Festival. Everyone appeared to be in good spirits, without even so much as a costumed dog fight.
“So far so good,” Norman Police Department Officer Marcus Smallwood said. “We got terribly busy everywhere in town but here at the Fall Fest right as it started.”
He’s part of the bicycle team. With it being the event’s first year they weren’t quite sure how much police presence would be required. All indications were that it would be a tranquil evening.
“We wanted to create a Halloween type event for the community where anyone and everyone would feel welcome,” Norman realtor Ashley Adair-Garner said. “We’ve had a great response from the participating business community; everyone was so excited about getting a different kind of crowd down here. The city government has also been great to work with.”
Along with J.J. Bradford, she’s one of the co-chair organizers of the new event. Adair-Garner noted that all the evening’s sponsored activities such as trick or treating, face painting, games, temporary tattoos, inflatable playgrounds and costume contests were all free. Over fifty Norman businesses helped sponsor the event with most donating cash to help make it happen.
“Erinn Gavaghan of the Arts Council asked me to help with this and it just seems like something Norman should have tonight and in the future,” Bradford said. “And I’m so happy to have been involved during its first year.” Success in 2013 gives it more than a ghost of a chance that the Downtown Norman Fall Fest will be repeated next year.