Group Saves Wilton Manors Halloween Festival; Haters Complain

This is Wilton Drive.
This is Wilton Drive.

​There's been some outrage expressed toward Wilton Manors Main Street Inc. The 501c3 has taken over Wilton Manors' annual Halloween festival, Wicked Manors. On the upside, they've extended the formerly one-night event into four days and changed the name to Wicked Weekend. On the downside -- and the cause of the general outrage --  they're not going to close Wilton Drive to traffic.

Residents posted angry comments on the group's blog and Facebook page.

"Not closing the streets? Seriously??? It's the biggest night of the year for WM and you're keeping the streets open to traffic? That's a party killer for sure!!!! Half the fun of the event is parading down the open street in costume, meeting friends, taking pictures," wrote one commenter named Alan.

"Not to close the drive is an accident waiting to happen. What are your plans to make sure no one gets hurt or hit by car going to fast. You know some homophobic person will get some crazy idea and try to run someone over," wrote Anthony J. Sassano.

In the four previous years, Wicked Manors was a massive outdoor party that encompassed all of the bars along Wilton Drive as well as the street itself. Last year, it was put together by Pride of Greater Fort Lauderdale.

"The group that produced this event in past years also produced the Stonewall [Street Festival] event this year and lost their shirts," said Krishan Manners, director of marketing at Main Street. "They apparently lost about $30,000."

Main Street's mission, as stated on the organization's Facebook page is, "To create an environment on Wilton Drive where commerce, art and housing enthusiastically coexist and provide mutual nourishment." But when they heard that PGFL was in dire financial straits and would not be able to run Wicked Manors, they stepped in.

But that was around August, giving them only a few months lead-time, not nearly enough to put together the funds to run such a huge event. And after the PGFL debacle, the police department and local vendors wanted to be paid in full upfront. So Main Street made the decision not to close Wilton Drive, saving about $15,000 and essentially cutting their budget in half.

Why does it cost so much to block off a street for one night?

"City police, overtime, inspections galore, barricades, cones -- all of that," Manners said. "There's just a plethora of things that when you add it up comes to a big number."

Manners concedes that not closing the street will give the event a "different feel" but said they were more concerned about losing the event altogether. As for safety concerns, Main Street has hired shuttles to take guests back and forth from the parking and on Saturday, the busiest night, there will be cones at the crosswalks and extra police on duty.

"Main Street is a nonprofit. We really won't make money on the event. We're just doing it to make it happen for the community," said Manners. "Hopefully, we will handle [Wicked Weekend] going forward. If we do it again next year, we'll be able to start much earlier."

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