I have mentioned Anoka, Minnesota as “The Halloween Capital of the World,” but I haven’t told you why.
While the holiday had been recognized for quite some time, it wasn’t until 1920 when George Green and other Anoka civic leaders suggested the idea of a giant celebration that included an evening parade to keep young kids, who would otherwise play tricks, occupied. Then ending the night with a large bonfire. This ensured Anoka’s reign as the first city in the United States to put on a Halloween celebration to divert pranks. The town has completely embraced the idea, holding huge celebrations every year since (with the exception of two during World War II). By the 1930’s, there were thousands in attendance of the parades. Since then, the festivities last over two weeks every year and include music, pumpkin carvings contests, house decorating, eating contests, pet costume contests, a medallion hunt and more. This year marks the 96th anniversary.
Which brings me to the buttons. The first Anoka Halloween commemorative buttons were created in 1940. Originally made of wood, they were fastened with a safety pin glued to the back. I have countless buttons but the ones that you see pictured here are from 1991, 2007, 2012, 2014 and this year’s 2016 button design winner. Buttons weren’t the only way to remember such an occasion – they also sold Anoka Halloween Festival beer cans filled with August Schell Brewing Co. beer. [Fun Fact: The Mad Hatter Tea Room in Anoka is where Charles Kiewel, the president of Minneapolis Brewing Company that later became Grain Belt lived. I wrote about it here.] The beer cans welcome message assured drinkers that it was “recommended by Vampires, Goblins, and Ghosts the world over.” There were also mugs, medallions, license plate frames, aprons, neckties and cloth banners that you can still see hanging around town. These buttons along with other collectibles can be purchased at the Anoka Halloween Capital of the World Gift Shop of Second Avenue and Main Street. The gift shop is 100% volunteer and non-profit, as are most of the Anoka Halloween festivities.