In 1986, a Daily Camera front-page story described Halloween on the Pearl Street Mall like this: “An 8-foot-tall green Gumby chats with a yellow and black bumble bee, and two underworld psychedelic reptiles sneer at a Heineken Beer umbrella as snow dampens the ground.”
The reporter was describing the fabled — and unorganized and unsanctioned and unruly — Boulder “Mall Crawl” of the ’80s, when tens of thousands of revelers took to the street on Halloween night to see, be seen, drink and be drunk, a situation that led the city to shut it down in 1991.
Now, two Boulder men who were in elementary school during the Mall Crawl’s heyday want to bring it back this year.
“I remember growing up and hearing bits and pieces about the legendary Mall Crawl,” said Jonathan Sackheim, a 33-year-old Boulder native who works in online marketing.
But he and Ryan Van Duzer, his friend and fellow bring-back-the-Mall-Crawl booster, were always too young to go.
Last year, as they were people-watching on the Mall on Halloween — Van Duzer dressed as a gorilla in a Hooters tank top, and Sackheim dressed as Nelly, the rapper of “Hot in Herre” fame — the pair hatched a plan to reincarnate the festivities of yore.
“It started as a funny idea, a little grassroots thing,” said Van Duzer, 30, who grew up in Boulder and works as a freelance video producer for the Camera and the Travel Channel.
So they started a Facebook group called “Bring back the Boulder Mall Crawl!” that pleads with Facebook-ers to revive “the biggest, baddest, most awesomeist Halloween celebration this side of the Mississippi.” Their plan is to use the pervasiveness of social media to encourage costumed revelers to congregate on Pearl Street for a “free, crazy, expressive public event so we can all be merry.”
Aside from crossing their fingers that people show up, Sackheim and Van Duzer don’t plan to do much else. They’re not “organizing” the event, Van Duzer said, so much as spreading the buzz.
So far, it seems to be working.
“Everybody’s been writing to me asking, ‘Is the Mall Crawl coming back?'” Van Duzer said. “I’m like, ‘Yes! But you have to believe in it, like Santa Claus.'”
But not everyone would welcome a Mall Crawl rebirth — including the Boulder police.
“The police department is not interested in any way to have the Mall Crawl days come back,” said Deputy Police Chief Greg Testa. “Things spin out of control very quickly when you have large crowds.”
The Mall Crawl peaked in 1989, when 40,000 people flooded Pearl Street. The city had rebranded the event the “Boulder Boo” in an attempt to regulate it, but it didn’t work. By midnight, the packs of riot-geared police patrolling the street had arrested 27 people, mostly for brawling or alcohol-related offenses, according to the Camera report.
One hundred people were injured, and within weeks, city officials began mapping out ways to shut the sprawling event down for good.
It worked, and over the years, the Halloween scene on Pearl Street grew more family-friendly, Testa said.
Last year, however, 12 people participating in Boulder’s annual Naked Pumpkin Run, where participants strip down and streak through Pearl Street wearing only pumpkins on their heads, were cited for indecent exposure. The police explained that they were concerned at the growing number of pumpkin-headed streakers attending 10-year-old event and wanted to act before it “got out of hand.”
As for city-blessed Halloween events, Pearl Street this year will again host the Munchkin Masquerade, a downtown trick-or-treating event for kids, on Oct. 29. No other Halloween-themed events are scheduled, officials said.
Sackheim and Van Duzer don’t want to see a return to drunken fights and broken lampposts, either. On their Facebook page, they implore would-be Crawlers to “behave . . . just a little.”
“We want it to be safe and fun and not have people going out of control like the old Mall Crawl,” Van Duzer said. “We just want a safe, fun, happy outlet for all the crazy adults in Boulder.”