It just so happens that Halloween falls on a Saturday under a rare blue moon in 2020, which marks the 100th year Anoka has been the Halloween Capital of the World.
There’s also a pandemic, but that hasn’t stopped Anoka from carrying on the festivities. With some events canceled or altered, the entire month of October still features plenty of activities both virtual and socially distant.
The fun started Thursday with the unveiling of a 14-foot welded pumpkin sculpture temporarily planted outside City Hall.
“It’s definitely been different than what we were expecting, but if anything, I think it shows how resilient we are,” said Anoka Halloween Ambassador Kaitlyn Mateychuk, 18, at the unveiling in front of a small crowd of city officials and residents.
The Anoka Municipal Utility presented the nonprofit Anoka Halloween Inc. with the big pumpkin to commemorate the historic celebration.
Liz McFarland, president of Anoka Halloween, said volunteers with the nonprofit have been working since last year in preparation for the centennial.
“It’s a challenging year and we’re working with what we’ve got,” she said. “We’re trying to keep the hope alive for Halloween. We thought we were going to have to scrap the entire thing.”
Anoka first organized a citywide Halloween celebration in 1920 as a way to deter youth from pranks like setting cows loose on Main Street, parking wagons on rooftops and tipping outhouses. The only time Anoka Halloween was canceled was in 1942 and 1943 during World War II.
To avoid canceling in 2020, Anoka Halloween took note of how the Minnesota State Fair pivoted to a drive-through experience. McFarland said the annual Grande Day parade that attracts more than 60,000 people is in complete reverse: Spectators drive by the floats rather than gather in crowds and watch marching bands and tractors go by. But don’t expect any candy, she said. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Halloween recommendations discourage traditional trick-or-treating and handing out candy, which the agency says could spread the virus.
Anoka Halloween has canceled events like the wine tasting and all-class reunion because organizers have to abide by state health guidelines of crowds less than 250 people. McFarland said preregistration for events allows Anoka Halloween to follow guidelines while events like the kids’ parade and gala will go virtual.
Along with weekly art activities and outdoor movie nights, there will be a mobile blood drive Oct. 12, a scavenger hunt Oct. 18, a citywide medallion hunt Oct. 21 and a pumpkin-carving contest Oct. 24. With high school football back in action, the historic Pumpkin Bowl returns with the Oct. 30 game between the Anoka Tornadoes and Totino-Grace Eagles.
An old-but-new tradition was added to Halloween night that was part of the city’s very first Halloween celebration. At 7:30 p.m. Oct. 31, residents are asked to step outside to hear the church bells and Fire Department sirens ring across town and chime in with a bell or horn of their own.
To commemorate 100 years as Halloween Capital of the World, a history book four years in the making is available for purchase along with other centennial items like buttons, shirts and hats.
“That’s our shining star and walk down memory lane,” McFarland said of the book created by centennial committee chairman John Jost. She said while many things have changed over the years, and especially this year, the book is a piece of lasting history.