I attended Ohio University for several reasons. 1) Even though I visited during the dreaded cicada season, it was still one of the most beautiful places on earth. 2) Its journalism school kicked butt. 3) It was way more affordable than out-of-state. And 4) Well … come on, let’s be honest: it was a party school, most notably on the night of Halloween.
As I’ve mentioned before, Athens, Ohio, has been called one of the most haunted places on the planet, and, perhaps by coincidence, the city is also host to one of the largest Halloween block parties in the nation. Every year anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 costumed party goers fill Court Street in Uptown Athens. Lucky me, I lived on Court Street my junior and senior years. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I was drunk the first night I set foot in Athens, Ohio, after unpacking all my junk, meeting my new roommate (Katie Nichols/Laver, the sweetest girl on earth), and saying goodbye to my tearful ma and pa. Literally, as soon as our parents’ cars could be seen driving away from Washington Hall on East Green, Katie and I turned to each other and said, “So what are we doing tonight?” We went out, wandered around, and ended up at an upper-class kegger. I was eighteen! Drinking a beer! And I didn’t have to worry about my parents finding out! Because they were back in Perrysburg!
The months continued liked this, until it was made apparent: Halloween is a big deal. You must have a good costume. You must hang out on Court Street. You must possibly get arrested for public urination. It was all part of the tradition. The first year, I was a mafia princess. The second year, I was Trinity from The Matrix, and by the second year, three of my best friends rolled into town for the event. Halloween in Athens became their tradition, too. Even Jake was in Athens for Halloween one year, while I was at the university. It’s a small world … where Halloween celebration at Ohio University is concerned.
The main attraction of Halloween in Athens was Court Street, my home for two years. The City of Athens closed down the entire street to accommodate the crowds, and as spectators/ participants, we gratefully obliged. The walk to Court Street was always a challenge, even when I lived there. By the time you actually left your house, you’d probably been drinking for about six hours. (One year a visiting pal of mine never even made it to Court Street. She blamed it on the avid game of flip cup we’d played that afternoon.)
Once on Court Street, the drunkenness of the entire town functioned as a contact high. You made friends and got hugs from perfect strangers—especially if they were dressed as, say, Indiana Jones or a postal carrier. It was a good thing you made new friends, because you usually lost the ones you came with anyway. (Once, I lost another out-of-town visitor on Court Street, only to later find out she’d been drinking a bottle of straight vodka, walking down the middle of the street, right past policemen … who were thankfully watching someone else do something stupid.) By the end of it all, Court Street was a thriving, pulsating, single entity of friends for a night, acting as they never would on any other night of the year.
Maybe that’s what it was all about. Halloween is about costumes, right? Maybe on Halloween, we all do things we normally wouldn’t. Smoke cigarettes. Make out with a vampire. Latch onto people you’ve never seen and probably never will see again. It was something I loved about Athens on Halloween; it was something I loved about Athens all year long, because in college, you do tend to make friends with people you never would have expected. Those friendships last the rest of your life; my OU group meets at least once a year, and whenever we’re together, it’s like we’re back on Court Street.
I’ve been back for Halloween since graduation, to visit my little bro, Matt, while he was a student at Ohio University. People say things change. What you remember about the “good times” will never be quite as good when you go back. I say that’s a bunch of bull crap. Athens, Ohio, was exactly the same. And so am I, whenever I go back—21 and a total idiot. But I was always a happy idiot. Especially on Halloween.