Take a typical weekend in Isla Vista, pack the streets to a standing room capacity of 15,000 18- to 22-year-old residents and visitors, add costumes and a cultural excuse to deny inhibitions; what do you expect?
“Not much, nothing special, and nothing out of the ordinary,” say the managers of Mac’s, I.V. Market, and SOS Liquor. “Business here is almost exactly like a normal Friday or Saturday night,” says Lee Johnson of I.V. Market. “It’s nothing like the old days, when Halloween was wild.”
Am I missing something here? I go out with pen pad in hand expecting to hear that the markets have ordered a reserve arsenal of Bud kegs, cases of microbrews and half liters of vodka, but instead I find that business may even be slow, as is the case with SOS liquor. Besides learning that Mac’s and I.V. market’s most popular munchies are bin candy and that Natural Ice is the best selling beer at SOS, even more interesting was the reference to a former state of affairs in I.V., to a golden age of Isla Vista Halloweens.
Nov. 1, 1992: “In Isla Vista, a night of revelry, tragedy,” reads the front page of the Santa Barbara News-Press. Capping off a night of collegiate mayhem, two young men, independent of each other, fell 100 feet off the cliffs near the 6700 and 6600 blocks of Del Playa. Both received prompt medical attention and survived the incident, although not without degenerating their health to critical status. (And you thought your roommate got sloppy.)
On a more positive note, some entrepreneurial students took advantage of the estimated 40,000-plus crowd and sold hot dogs for $1 each as part of an organization called “Let Isla Vista Eat,” or “L.I.V.E.” The profits were used to help feed the homeless. Other creative ventures included a kissing booth, a stand selling I.V. Halloween T-shirts and even a student selling calendars featuring local male and female UCSB students.
Police made over 1,000 citations throughout the night, and a total of 75 bookings at the county jail. Fast-forward to 2001.
“Isla Vista is quieter than in past,” reads the News-Press. The crowd topped out at an estimated 10,000. This extreme shift in intensity didn’t happen overnight, of course. The taming of Halloween involved a long series of various “crackdowns” enacted by various members of the community and university.
But perhaps you’ve heard all this before, and so what. So what if it used to be wild, if thousands of good friends from out of town used to fill the residence halls, and if Playboy magazine formerly believed that our Halloween was one of the best parties in America. I’ll half-heartedly agree.
While nostalgia may be intrinsically good to those, well, nostalgic types, the rest of us would probably agree that the greater value of history is in learning from and applying it. What made the golden age of I.V. Halloweens great, and any cultural event for that matter, was cultural involvement. We just have to get off our asses and make it great.
I encourage everyone to get involved on Thursday. From the freshmen in FT (which shouldn’t be a problem) to you 5-year seniors in Santa Ynez and you who may, and perhaps for good reason, believe that bingeing in adolescent hormones is pass