The small town of Anoka, Minnesota prides itself in being the Halloween Capital of the World, so much so that the U.S. Post Office officially unveiled the first Halloween stamps there yesterday (Sept. 29), but now Orlando, Florida is trying to steal the title in an effort to attract (even more) tourists.
A number of stories with similar headlines have surfaced in recent days, as Orlando decided to dub itself as “the world’s Halloween capital” in a new marketing campaign to lure more tourists and scare up some extra business, with the visitors bureau Visit Orlando promoting events on social media, arranging press trips, and hosting a Halloween landing page on its web site.
The visitors bureau has never branded the region this way before, and Chief Executive Officer George Aguel recently told the Orlando Sentinel, “We needed to pull this together in one big overarching way. We don’t see any place that could even come close to the magnitude of how we celebrate the Halloween period like we do in Orlando.”
The problem is that the good folks of Anoka, Minnesota would definitely disagree, as they have annually celebrated the holiday for almost a century with Halloween events throughout October, including a Pumpkin Bowl, Orange Tie Ball, House Decorating Contest, Spooktacular Carnival, and Halloween Parade, and they proudly proclaim themselves to be The Halloween Capital of the World on the city’s official Anoka Halloween website.
According to the site, Anoka, Minnesota is believed to be the first city in the United States to put on a Halloween celebration to divert its youngsters from Halloween pranks. When Anokans awoke to find their cows roaming Main Street, their windows soaped and their outhouses tipped over, they decided something had to be done.
In 1920, George Green and other Anoka civic leaders suggested the idea of a giant celebration. The idea was adopted by the Anoka Commercial Club and the Anoka Kiwanis Club; both giving their full support. In September of that year, a Halloween committee was organized.
Working hand in hand were businessmen, teachers from the Anoka public and parochial schools, parents, and students. For weeks before the big event, more than a thousand Anoka school children made plans and costumes for the big event.
A parade was scheduled for the evening. Participants included local and neighboring bands, drum corps, the Anoka police and fire departments, the Kiwanis club, the Commercial Club, and the Anoka National Guard; all working together to make the evening a success. Afterward, hundreds of bags of popcorn, candy, peanuts, and other treats were given away to the children who marched in the parade. And everyone was invited to a large bonfire that was staged at Bridge Square. Celebrations have been held every year since 1920 with the exception of 1942 and 1943 when the festivities were cancelled because of World War II.
Anoka is and has been The Halloween Capital of the World for decades, a fitting title earned from a strong history of celebrating Halloween for almost 100 years, and no temporary marketing campaign can change that in our eyes.
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