Security a priority at Hauntfest after Oregon District mass shooting

Hauntfest, billed as the largest and longest running Halloween party in the region, is set to kick off in the Oregon District on Saturday.

The event, in its 34th year, comes on the heels of the Aug. 4 mass shooting in which nine people were killed and 27 injured.

Unlike previous years, advertising and decorations for Saturday’s event will not feature any references to death because organizers want “to be considerate, given the shooting,” said Natalie Skilliter, owner/general manager of Corner Kitchen restaurant, and treasure of the Oregon District Business Association. There won’t be any skeletons, zombies or other creatures that remind people of death, she said.

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Security has always been a priority, but the mass shooting came up in conversations frequently during their planning meetings with police the past few weeks since it’s been on most people’s minds, ODBA officials said. They plan to take every step to ensure Hauntfest continues to be a safe and fun event for everyone, Skilliter said.

“We worked really closely with the police, and we put extra measures in place,” she said, adding that hosting Gem City Shine about a week after the shooting provided a great template for how to plan for security for Hauntfest.

Gem City Shine was filled with love

Hauntfest starts at 7 p.m. Oct. 26 on Fifth Street. The event will feature live music, food, alcoholic beverages, performers and a costume contest. Tickets can be purchased in advance online for $10 or $15 at the gate. The entrance will be on Fifth Street, and several blocks will be fenced off for the party.

The party generates between $50,000 and $60,000 per year, and the money goes toward services such as snow removal for the district’s sidewalks, landscaping and other maintenance services, Skilliter said.

On average, Hauntfest draws nearly 20,000 people, Skilliter said, but has dipped to about 7,000 when the weather is bad. If the weather cooperates, a larger crowd might show up this year because the Oregon District has gotten much more exposure and people want to show support, said Kyle Babirad, president of the ODBA and president/owner of Canary consulting firm.

Weapons — real or fake — were banned four years ago, said Skilliter, who is part of a committee that’s been working with police and other business owners the past several weeks to plan Hauntfest.

Photos of Gem City Shine in Oregon District in Dayton

Even if a fake weapon is part of a costume, it will be confiscated, she said. Last year someone showed up carrying a light saber with their Star Wars costume, but they were stopped at the gate and the light saber was confiscated.

“It is a private party that the Oregon District Business Association (puts on), and we (reserve) the streets,” Skilliter said. “So it is a weapons-free event; I just think that we’re going to continue to see our police take that really seriously.”

During discussions about security, police recommended that the business association have metal detectors, which were used during Gem City Shine, said Lt. James Mullins, commander of the central police district. Skilliter declined to say whether or not the association will provide metal detectors, citing safety concerns. They’ve not had metal detectors in previous years.

Safety has always been a concern, and Oregon District Business Association does everything it can to make Hauntfest as safe as possible, Babirad said.

“I don’t think we would be responsible holding this event if we weren’t already concerned with something happening with a larger amount of people that we’re hosting,” he said.

Dayton police doesn’t plan to make any major changes, Mullins said, because they already have a great security plan.

Tyler Gilcher, manager and partner of Toxic Brew bar agrees, saying the day should be a little more relaxed than normal, and people should have fun.

“I’m not any more nervous or less nervous,” Gilcher said. “The chances of it happening are still as slim as they are at any time.”


  • What: 34th annual Hauntfest
  • Where: The Oregon District, East Fifth Street, between Patterson Boulevard and Wayne Avenue
  • When: 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 26.
  • Tickets: $10 online at and $15 at the gate.
  • Parking: There is no parking for partygoers on district residential streets. Parking is available on city streets, where marked, or at the Transportation Center garage at East Fifth and Jefferson streets.
  • Age-restriction: Visitors must be 18 to enter and 21 to drink.

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