Not So Scary
December 18, 2009 1:05 PM
It wasn't so long ago that the mention of Halloween in Madison was as charged and controversial as the words Edgewater or snow are right now. But not anymore. The final numbers for Freakfest 2009 are in and they're better than expected in every way.
Expenses were $212,635 and revenues totaled $170,968 for a net cost to the city of $41,677. In 2006, the first year of Freakfest, our costs were $412,507 and revenues were $52,026. So net costs are down by almost 90%. Of course, before 2006 there were no revenues at all because there was no gating or ticketing and no bands. We couldn't even be sure on exactly what day or at what times crowds would show up.
Freakfest brought some structure to the event, which has resulted not only in revenues and less costs, but in dramatically reduced arrests. In 2004, our worst year for arrests, there were 578. In 2009 there were only 52.
We can now think about a time when the event might actually break even for city taxpayers, something none of us could imagine only a few years ago. In fact, I no longer worry too much about violence or costs. My new worry is too much success. Attendance at Freakfest has steadily grown, hitting 44,000 this year. Another thing that ticket selling has given us is accurate crowd numbers. We believe it's almost impossible that there were ever 100,000 people on State Street as had been estimated in some previous years. Actually, we believe that State Street's capacity is about 50,000 people. So, as the event becomes more popular we could see a year when we reach capacity, like a sold out football game. That would be a challenge, of course, but as problems go it would be a nice one to have.