For those who live outside of Anoka, Minnesota not much is known. On a national level, Anoka has become best known for the devastating number of middle school students who committed suicide after being victims of bullying. Also, Anoka resides in Minnesota's 6th District, which is represented in Congress by Michele Bachmann. So, not great things. On a state level, the other 'burbs assume Anoka is a hot bed of meth and white trash that votes Michele Bachmann into congress and bullies middle school students to the point of taking their own lives. None of which is untrue. Anoka has no doubt earned it's reputation of intolerance and general political grossness. I live in Anoka. I have lived in the city limits of Anoka for the last two years, but Anoka has always been a part of my life. My aunt and uncle have lived in Anoka for as long as I can remember and we spent massive amounts of time at my aunt and uncle's house growing up. Anoka, geographically, is a beautiful city. We are nestled on the confluence of the Rum and Mississippi River's and we have a rich history that I will not go into here ( I am a little obsessed with the history of Anoka. It used to be such a vital little town!) Anoka has a great old school Main Street and downtown area with cafes and shops, of which one of the shops I am proud to say is my place of employment. And has such beautifully restored old homes that pay great tribute to Victorian architecture of the late 1800's. And lets not forget, the county jail is in Anoka too.
There are good people who live in Anoka, Minnesota. People like me, who vote democrat and support human rights. The thing that baffles me is I know a lot of people in this town, and I don't think a single one of them voted for Michele Bachmann, but then again, I don't know everyone in town, but I digress. The good people of Anoka champion our little town with the black smudge on it's face because we know what a great place it is, and what good people live here. And that it is the Halloween Capital of the WORLD! Woot! Woot! Yes, it is self-declared, but it's official, dammit! Made so by the powers that be in 1937 when the city of Anoka, who had by then been calling themselves that since the early 1930's (but having Halloween celebrations as early as 1919) sent a 12-yea- old boy to Washington, DC to make it official. We have been tried to be usurped, by the likes of Salem, Massachusetts and Hell, Michigan (which is just stupid, more on that in another post) but no one can take the title away from the scariest little town on the Mississippi!
However, even with that kick-ass title, in my opinion, Anoka struggles with the celebrations. We have three parades, seriously.
This past fall I sent away for free travel information for Salem, MA (I like to send away for free things) and I received a pamphlet on all the celebrations and activities the town has during the month of October for Halloween. It was an embarrassment of riches of awesomely spooky stuff to do. I still follow their Haunted Happenings on Twitter because I was so impressed. Along with your basic witch trial things (plays, museums, etc) they have numerous ghost walks, which makes sense since towns in New England are the oldest in the United States and have tons of history. Anoka had a ghost tour, which I am proud to say I was a docent of this past Halloween! Oh, and docent is a fancy word for "tour guide" which took me like, a week to figure out. Our Ghosts of Anoka tour is a brisk walk to several private homes and a few businesses close to Main Street that claim to have hauntings, it's fun...but a little dry. I tried to spice my tours up a bit with my youthfulness (I am the youngest docent, by far...) but it could pack more of a punch if it wanted to. This particular program is through the Anoka County Historical Society, so it is a bit heavy on the history, which I loved, but a light on the ghost stories, which the tours didn't love. In fact, the best ghost story comes at the end of the tour about Billy' Bar and Grill that used to be a hotel/brothel and a murdered prostitute!
Salem also has population and sheer acreage on Anoka. The shops they are able to offer, mostly witchy in nature, Anoka cannot compete with. Same with tourism. Curiosity of the witch trials and the beautiful coastal setting will keep 'em coming back every time.
I think we could do it though, we could give Salem a run for their money if we really wanted to. Probably cut back to maybe just two parades. And maybe embrace the Pagan-ness of the holiday a bit more. Yes, in these parts shying away from the status quo, especially when it comes to religion, is a big risk, but than don't live in a town that so readily aligns itself with a holiday a lot of types (I won't name names or point fingers) think is evil. I say we have a flat out Samhain festival with bonfires (and no, the bonfire in the City Hall parking lot after the Light Up The Night parade doesn't count, and that's the parade I'm getting rid of anyway) and dancing and sell a beer or two, maybe.
And something more for the kids. Halloween Fun at the Library was lame and PACKED! If you could find a fun, free activity for us broke parents to enjoy that wasn't someone reading spooky store then having the kids march around the library in their costumes (yet another parade!) while that Saturday morning weirdos who come to the library for the free internet access look on, think of how popular that would be! A carnival, perhaps, or a pumpkin carving something or other. And don't get me started on the Police v. Fire Dept. Chili Cook-off, which would have been a huge hit if it wasn't held at the police station and you didn't have to walk past interrogation rooms to attend.
With all my wonderful ideas why don't I volunteer to be on the board of the Anoka Halloween committee? Well, I did e-mail them a while back and never heard anything from them, which is unfortunate. Plus, I hear the people who do run it are stuck in their ways and don't like change. Well, then, I'm just what they need! Someone with a passion for Halloween and can make our city live up to the title we fight so hard to keep for some reason!
Viva La Halloween Anoka!