Everyone knows the annual Halloween Street Party on the Cedar Springs strip draws some big crowds. But in the last few years those crowds have become so big that organizers may have to consider limiting access or expanding the fenced-in perimeter for the event in future years, a police official said this week.
DISD Detective Sgt. Jeremy Liebbe, who’s openly gay and serves as co-security liaison for the Street Party, said he believes the event has doubled in size in the last six years, to the point that an estimated 20,000 people attended in 2011.
“I actually got up on the roof of the Round-Up,” Liebbe said. “It was just mindblogging how large that crowd was.”
Liebbe said organizers are discussing the possibility of putting counters at the gates in future years so they can limit the number of people inside the fences at any given time — similar to St. Patrick’s Day on Greenville Avenue.
“I’m not going to say it’s getting too big, but it’s definitely getting to that point where you can only fit so many bodies in so much space,” Liebbe said. “You can only fit so many bodies in so much space before we’re stacking people on top of each other or running risks of people getting injured. As the event continues to grow, we want to make sure we stay ahead of the game. At this point we’re costing out ideas.”
Asked whether organizers would consider charging admission for the Street Party, Liebbe said he has not heard that possibility discussed — though he noted that there is an admission charge for the St. Patrick’s Day event.
Caven Enterprises, which owns JR.’s, S4, Sue Ellen’s and TMC, puts on the Street Party. Asked to comment on future plans, Caven spokesman Rick Espaillat said: “I would not speculate about what may or may not happen next year.”
Last year for the first time, the Street Party was fenced in. Liebbe said fencing in the event was “immensely successful” in controlling crowd flow, keeping out glass containers and alcohol, and making cleanup easier. This year, in addition to the fencing, Liebbe said the number of police officers working the event will increase from 20 to 30. The block party typically results in only a handful of arrests, which Liebbe called “insignficant” for an event of its size. “That’s definitely a tribute to the community,” he said.
Espaillat said the Street Party began as nothing more than an especially busy night at the gay bars circa 1980.
“It got bigger than the clubs,” Espaillat said. “It spilled out into the streets and continued to spill out into the streets until the streets had to be closed by Dallas police unofficially, and then we did it officially starting I think in 1982.”
Since then the event has become one of the largest outdoor parties in the city, Espaillat said.
“In terms of gay and straight mix, it is certainly one of the most eclectic,” he added. “My recollection is that it was almost entirely gay in the beginning, and then as the party became more famous and more notorious, it became more of a mix.”
The influx of non-LGBT people has sometimes been criticized, but Espaillat said, “I think everyone should be welcome.”
Liebbe doesn’t see it as much of a controversy.
“From a diversity standpoint, 20 or 30 years ago, if a straight person was in any of those clubs, they were probably police officers doing a raid,” he said. “To have a large segment of the straight community coming out and knowing that it’s an LGBT event, really I think shows that we’re getting toward greater inclusivity. While there’s definitely a debate on the perceived loss of identity … I think that shows the direction society is going overall.”
Richard Curtin, aka Edna Jean Robinson, who emcees the Costume Promenade, said he doesn’t mind the influx of straight people, but wishes more would dress up. “I think that if you go to the Street Party, you should come in costume. They’re not coming to participate; they’re coming to spectate,” he said. “I think it’s one of the best in the country, and what will make it the best in the country is if we have more people participating.”
— John Wright
Halloween 2012: The Street Party, 7 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, 3900 block of Cedar Springs. Costume Promenade begins at 9:30.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 26, 2012.