Get to know Madison Freakfest coordinator

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Posted by on October 25, 2009 at 16:52:17:

In Reply to: Former radio guy spinning at Freakfest posted by Acquila on September 19, 2009 at 13:57:07:

Know Your Madisonian: Joel Plant, Madison Freakfest coordinator

By DEE J. HALL | Wisconsin State Journal

Joel Plant, 32, was named Madison's first alcohol policy coordinator shortly before Halloween 2005. In years past, the annual gathering on State Street turned into a drunken riot, with smashed windows, injured bystanders and scores of arrests. One of Plant's assignments was to improve Halloween.

The result was Freakfest, a city-sponsored street party with live music, food, a costume contest and an admission fee.

Saturday night, about 40,000 people will pay $7 each to crowd onto State Street in what will again be one of the largest Halloween events in the country.

When did Halloween change?

I was sitting in the (Halloween) command center (in 2005). The police pepper-sprayed the hundreds of people still gathered. ... (Madison Police) Chief (Noble) Wray said, 'We know how to police the event. The question is, is this how we want the event to end?' We all knew the answer. ... The marching order from Mayor Dave (Cieslewicz) was, find a way to have a safe event, reduce costs and ... address the impact of overconsumption of alcohol.

What was causing the violence?

What we realized was that the problems with Halloween would not be solved by police. ... The problems occurred when the crowd stopped moving. There was no entertainment. There was no focal point, and some more nefarious people decided to become the focal point. ... We went from an event that was impromptu and unsponsored and fundamentally changed it by ... facilitating the crowd. The troublemakers aren't running the show here. It's a community event.

You may have felt nervous before the event in previous years. How do you feel now?

Real positive. Since 2006 every year has gotten a little less anxious.

It's almost like you're the host of a giant party. Does that fit your personality?

Not necessarily. My parties are much lamer than Freakfest.

Were you a big party guy back in college?

I did do my fair share of partying. I played rugby as an undergrad. I got my education in a variety of ways.

If you could dress up for Halloween, what would you be?

I'm really a very lame costumer. This is the kind of question I'm totally stumped by.

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