Nearly a week before Anoka’s hugely popular Halloween Grand Day Parade, spectators already had claimed their spots along the parade route.
But all those lawn chairs made it tough for city crews to mow and customers to visit local businesses on busy Main Street.
That’s why city officials plan to take a look soon at whether they should set stricter rules on when people can claim turf for the annual parade.
“The city has always allowed people to put chairs out in advance of the Halloween parade,” interim city manager Greg Lee said.
“But it seemed like this year people put chairs out far in advance of the parade, and it started to cause some issues. It has gotten to be a very popular event, and people are starting to reserve their spots earlier and earlier.”
This year, people lined up chairs with tape and rope five days before the Saturday parade.
City officials said it limited access to the sidewalk and other public spaces and became a safety issue for cars parked along the street.
Anoka prides itself on being the “Halloween Capital of the World,” with celebrations held throughout October.
The city began organizing Halloween events in 1920 as an alternative to rambunctious activity taking place that time of year.
Celebrations have continued with only a brief lapse during World War II, and the image of a witch is now embedded in downtown sidewalks.
This year’s festivities included a bonfire, medallion hunt, 5K race, coronation and several parades, including the Grand Day Parade.
“Halloween in Anoka has always been big. But now it’s a safety issue,” said Peter Turok, president of the Anoka Area Chamber of Commerce. Turok has been involved in the festivities since the 1960s, and his family volunteers during the celebrations.
The lawn chairs prompt motorists to park further from the curb and closer to the middle of the road.
“Before I would never hear about it, and this year I heard about it,” Turok said.
A similar problem occurred during Forest Lake’s July 4th annual parade. People claimed their spots days in advance on private lawns and city sidewalks, and it quickly became a nuisance.
In 2007, Forest Lake passed an ordinance prohibiting the public from reserving spots on public property earlier than sunrise on the day of the parade. “It’s tragic that we have to do all this,” former Council Member Judy Bull said at the time.
People can be fined $50 for the first violation, $100 for a second and $200 for a third, if all within the same calendar year.
Fines for potential violations and rules on when people can claim spots will be discussed during a workshop session on Feb. 22, Lee said.