Why major Halloween celebration started in Anoka

At the end of the 19th Century and beginning of the 20th Century, Halloween was a time to play tricks. Over the years, pranks became meaner. Soap on shop windows, removing gates, changing signs, tipping over outhouses (even with people inside) and torturing cats and dogs were some of the main tricks being played across the country.

By the 1920s, pranks had become so bad that there were stories in some parts of the country where people were shooting at children and chasing them down with cars. Organizations like the Boy Scouts of America, local safety patrols, school boards and other organizations organized the supervised visiting of homes and businesses for pennies and treats. This is how the “trick-or-treating” tradition started. Town festivals were started to have more supervised activities.

In Anoka, there were some particularly nasty pranks played in 1919. An outhouse was tipped over with a person inside of it. Some cows were let loose from a farm and were found the next morning grazing along Main Street and in a school eating text books. A horseless carriage was found at the top of Anoka High School.

A man named George Green has been primarily credited with thinking of the idea of an Anoka Halloween (was spelled Hallowe’en). There had been a Halloween dance at the Anoka Armory in prior years, but the first officially recognized Anoka Halloween community celebration was in 1920. The headline in the Oct. 27, 1920 Anoka County Union read, “Anoka to have Hallowe’en party.”

At 7:30, the Lincoln Mill blew its big whistle and others blew their bells and whistles to let the area know something big was about to happen. This went on for 10 minutes and people as far as Burns Township called the Anoka County Union office to ask if the noise was from the Halloween celebration.

After the whistles died down, about 500 adults and children in costumes walked through downtown Anoka amidst storms of confetti and paper streamers. Merchants decorated their windows with a Halloween theme. The best decorators won gallons of gasoline.

The next year in 1921, the headline claimed that 10,000 people came out to the Anoka Hallowe’en party.

*The Anoka County Historical Society researched this information from primary sources including a 1995 book titled “Halloween in America” by Stuart Schneider and Anoka County Union articles.

If you would like more information on Anoka Halloween visit anokahalloween.com.