Bart Ward knows plenty about Halloween in Anoka.
The past president of Anoka Halloween, a volunteer group that organizes family friendly events in the congressionally proclaimed Halloween Capital of the World, has been an enthusiastic booster of all things Halloween for decades. But he didn’t know much about the United States Postal Service and how it unveiled new stamps.
Until, that is, about eight months ago. That’s when he learned that the USPS had created a series of Halloween-themed Forever stamps and would choose a city for its unveiling.
“I didn’t really know what it was,” Ward said of the whole stamp unveiling process. “But it sounded to me that Anoka should be involved as well.”
Thanks to a massive campaign by city leaders and residents to deluge postal officials with letters and documents detailing Anoka’s long Halloween history, the city on Thursday, Sept. 29, will take center stage as it hosts the first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for four 2016 jack-o’-lantern Forever stamps. The event will help the city kick off a full slate of October festivities.
The public event starts at 10:30 a.m. at Anoka City Hall River Plaza, 2015 First Ave. N. Elementary school students will parade across the stage in costumes, while students from the Anoka High School Ensemble will provide background music.
At 11 a.m., ceremonies featuring a roster of local, state and national officials will unveil and dedicate the new stamp series. There will even be an autograph session, where guests can have their programs signed by those who spoke during the ceremony. And, yes, there will be selfie stations.
It’s about Halloween, after all. And this is Anoka, which has been celebrating the holiday in a big way since the 1920s.
According to Anoka Halloween, Anoka 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,” according to the organization’s website.
“It seems only right that, since Anoka is the Halloween Capital of the World, that Anoka is the right venue to do this,” Ward said. “Typically, with stamp unveilings, you see this in big cities — Washington D.C., New York, Chicago. You don’t see this stuff happening in the Anokas of the world.”
The stamps, featuring photographs of four different hand-carved jack-o’-lanterns, are the first issued by the postal service to have a Halloween theme.
In addition to the Halloween connection, this year is the 100th anniversary of Anoka’s Old Post Office and a plaque will be commemorated at 2 p.m. The evening will feature the Anoka Historical Society’s Signed, Sealed & Dinnered fundraiser at Green Haven Golf Course & Event Center, scheduled to start at 5 p.m.
A wide range of local organizations, from the Anoka Chamber of Commerce to Anoka Halloween, the Anoka-Hennepin School District to the Anoka Historical Society, “busted their rears” to put together the dedication and evening programs, Ward said.