Saturday, Aug 17, 2019

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Senior shares tips on how to have a safe Halloween weekend

Even as a freshman, I knew about Ohio University's infamous Halloween block party. The campus-wide (but not campus-sponsored) event nicknamed "HallOUween" takes place the Saturday before Halloween and features bands so good, it's scary, wicked costumes and a lot of ways to accidentally get yourself in trouble.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to ensure that students and visiting guests can have a safe and smart Halloween.

One basic rule of thumb during any sort of overly populated celebration? Find a buddy or a group, and stick with them.

It might seem obvious, but having an arm to link onto when you venture out to Court Street will help immensely, especially when you realize how many extra people are flooding the streets.

Last year, my friends and I basically had to create a train of people to get from Casa Nueva to Perk's Coffee Shop, and even with our arms linked and hands clasped, we were nearly swallowed up in the Court Street swarm.

Andrew Powers, chief of police at the Ohio University Police Department (OUPD), said that he expects around 30,000 visitors to come to Athens during Halloween. That's not an exact number, but Powers notes that it's nearly impossible to accurately track a crowd that size, especially once it's taken into account that Halloween not only takes place on Court Street, but in the residence halls and at house parties as well.

All of the extra ghouls, goblins and scantily clad superheroes provide ample people-watching entertainment, but it also means serious cell phone reception problems. Making plans to meet up later become difficult, and with so many strangers on campus, it's just all-around safer to stay with your friends.

Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones suggested that students make a plan before heading out to enjoy the weekend's festivities.

"Having a plan is important, but especially on Halloween weekend," explained Hall-Jones. "There are many out-of-town guests, some of which may not be familiar with campus or the Athens community.
Students and guests should have a plan about where and when they are going to be and a time to meet if they get lost from one another."

Powers agreed that a group outing is safest, because "there's always safety in numbers."

He advised students to "take care of your friends," and suggested that one person is designated to stay sober for the night, so that he or she can help look after everybody.

Vice President of Student Affairs Ryan Lombardi reiterated that staying with friends can make a big difference in how safe and smart students are during Halloween.

"Stay with people that you trust explicitly, and that you know will stick with you," advised Lombardi. "Pay attention to your surroundings."

Part of looking out for your friends means helping to make sure they don't do anything, well, stupid.

"Rowdy guests" could put a student "at risk of jeopardizing their academic career," warned Lombardi.

Powers told me that the past four Halloweens have been "fairly well-managed" events, void of any "significant problems."

That doesn't mean people haven't been getting in trouble. Powers cited alcohol-related offenses, such as public intoxication, public urination and destruction of property, as some of the most common
problems seen on Court Street.

Lombardi and Powers both mentioned that having a smart, civil and safe Halloween basically comes down to respecting each other and making good choices.

OUPD brings in extra officers from Athens Police Department and other area law enforcement agencies for Halloween and Lombardi explained that it's of the utmost importance that students respect the rules and regulations implemented for the weekend.

As a senior and with four of these crazy nights under my belt, I agree with their advice. Halloween can be a fun night, despite all of the rules, regulations and horror stories about unfair arrests. If
you play it safe and make smart decisions, HallOUween might just be the best thing since trick or treating.

"Be good community members," Hall-Jones said. "Being smart, civil, and safe with your choices will make for a fun, memorable weekend."

And, remember – always ask before you pet the horses.

Holly Coletta is a senior journalism major who serves as a student writer in the University's Communications and Marketing Office