SF Castro District gearing up for return of Halloween celebrations this weekend

ByTim Johns KGO logo
Friday, October 27, 2023
SF Castro gearing up for return of Halloween this weekend
The countdown is on until one of San Francisco's hallmark celebrations: Halloween in the Castro.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The countdown is on until one of San Francisco's hallmark celebrations: Halloween in the Castro.

"It's really everything to us. This is our high holiday," said Terry Asten Bennett.

Asten Bennett is the president of the Castro Merchants Association.

She says this year will have a family-friendly focus and feature everything from costume contests to face painting, to spooky movie marathons.

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After being toned down for several years, Asten Bennett hopes this weekend will help bring people back to the neighborhood.

For many in the Castro, Halloween is a lot more than just a weekend to come out and have fun though. They tell ABC7 News it's a part of this rich neighborhood's identity.

That history stretches back decades, all the way to the 1940s, and includes part of Asten Bennett's family.

She tells us her grandfather was the one who initially brought the holiday into the community.

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"He would bring in a flatbed truck and we would have a kids' costume contest and a pie-eating contest. And he had made this enormous paper mache dinosaur called Stanislaus that somebody would get into and parade the kids around the neighborhood," Asten Bennett said.

Organizers stress that this year's event will be far different than the nighttime Halloween parties the neighborhood became famous for in the past.

Those were ultimately shut down after a mass shooting in 2006 and several instances of violence.

City officials say in order for that type of event to make a comeback, things would have to be radically different.

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"I think we're going to have to do a lot of planning. It's going to require a lot of public safety support. A lot of thoughtfulness about how to roll it out in a way that is safe and respectful to the neighborhood," said Supervisor Rafael Mandelman.

As for this weekend, Castro leaders say everyone is welcome.

It's a chance to have fun and let people just be who they are.

"The Castro is already like a flamboyant, colorful place to be and everyone is already comfortable being themselves, but I think Halloween kind of takes it a step further," said Amirah Taouil of the Welcome Castro store.

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