Dakota Datebook

Halloween Party

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Halloween means costumes and candy, spooks and scares and mischief. A little bit of damage was expected on Oct. 31st in years past—and cities prepared for the tradition, perhaps with extra police officers, perhaps with extra events.


On this date in 1934, the Grand Forks YMCA held the first of what was to become an annual Halloween party. It included a tumbling act, a mind reader, “novelty contests and general merriment,” as well as a costume contest. They had about fifty parents helping entertain 600 to 700 grade- school-aged kids who came through by early evening – so many that Y officials planned to put next year’s affair in the city auditorium or some other large facility.


Perhaps the event contributed to the general lack of delinquency in the city. Police reported that Halloween evening in Grand Forks in 1934 was pretty tame, compared to Halloweens of the past, but the Grand Forks Herald did report that “Extra police were busy most of the evening breaking up gangs of children that threatened to do damage. About the only property damage was the removal of fences and steps and garbage cans. A few boys were taken to police headquarters and allowed to go home.”


In fact, that was a good night to be in North Dakota—especially when compared to reports coming out of Chicago, where the 1934 World’s Fair had just ended. Having the end of the event coincide with Halloween was perhaps not the best of ideas, as the whirlwind of ensuing chaos proved. People started riots on the streets of Chicago, and as the mood grew darker and mob mentality took hold, they surged through the streets, hunting for souvenirs and tearing apart the Century of Progress exposition. They racked up an estimated $150,000 in damage. The Associated Press reported: “Ambulances screamed. Police whistles blew. The crowd roared. And the exposition died violently.” One man, wearing a tablecloth as a toga, climbed onto the hood of a car and yelled, “Yippee, come and get me!”


The police did, for him and for others—not so much a trick, and definitely not a treat.


Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker



Grand Forks Herald, evening edition, Nov. 1, 1934, p1


This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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