By John Lauritsen


ANOKA, Minn. (WCCO) — From black cats to jack-o’-lanterns, to ghost and goblins, the city of Anoka is all about Halloween.

In fact, this is their 99th year of celebrating All Hallow’s Eve.

In this week’s Finding Minnesota, John Lauritsen shows us the real reason why the city became known as the Halloween Capital of the World.

“We’re in Halloween season. We’re not in Halloween day here,” said John Jost.

Even when it’s not October, you’ll find signs everywhere. There’s the witch medallion in front of Anoka City Hall; the Halloween murals along the river. There’s even a Halloween store where you can shop any time of year.

“I would say Halloween is in my bone marrow. Being an Anokan, the Halloween experience is tied directly to that,” John Jost said.

Jost is part of the city’s 100th anniversary committee. Much like State Fair organizers work year-round, Anoka volunteers lift the spirits of a long-running tradition for 12 straight months. The reason they do it goes back a century — and little pranksters are to blame.

“The damage was getting out of control,” said Jost. “They were tipping over outhouses, putting animals on roofs, wagons on roofs.”

So in 1920, city leaders tried to give the kids something else to do. They put on parades where trick-or-treaters were encouraged to dress up and join in. Children even got out of school for half a day.

“They march down main street in costume, carrying a sign with their school name and class,” said Karen George. “People just stop and watch the kids parade down Main Street.”

George was one of those kids. As the parades evolved, so did the costumes and customs. The Pumpkin Bowl became a thing where Anoka’s football team would play another school, and that kicked off the button tradition. Schell’s Brewing even got involved for a few years and made beer cans. But the hundreds of volunteers that make this happen every year, keep it as family friendly as possible.

“It’s just as magical for the children today in 2019, as it was for me back in the 60s,” said George.

During the city’s Grand Day Parade, more than 60,000 people can spend the day in Anoka. And as part of their 99th anniversary, they’re resurrecting the banners of old.

A handful of other cities around the country have claimed to be the Halloween Capital of the World, but no one can argue with Jost’s logic.

“We are known to be the longest-lasting Halloween tradition in the United States,” said Jost.

There’s even a congressional record that recognizes the tradition. It’s a special treat for a true Halloween town.

“We also want to make sure people know you can have as much fun dressing up and being something else or someone else for one day here in Anoka,” said George.

Money from Anoka’s Halloween celebrations goes into future parades and events, along with scholarships.

For more information about what’s happening in Anoka this month, click here.

John Lauritsen

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