It all started with a change of venue and hundreds of pounds of candy.
In September 2016, the Harlingen Parks and Recreation Department suggested the city’s annual Halloween event relocate from Rangerville Park to Jackson Street.
Four years later, ghouls, goblins, witches, comic book characters and much more stroll the streets collecting candy from merchants on Halloween night. It has become one of the city’s and downtown’s most attended and popular events.
The big event
In some ways, one could say, it has reinvented Downtown Harlingen. It has become the centerpiece of an array of events scheduled in October with a Halloween season that brings families and local people to the city’s center.
This Halloween, Downtown Harlingen officials expect at least 10,000 people to attend Halloween on Jackson Street. As many as 80 businesses and organizations will hand out about $10,000 in candy along the walkways. But the trick or treating isn’t the only aspect of this event. It’s a true community activity with live entertainment, a costume parade, haunted house, food and much more.
“We thought it would be a great idea to bring people here,” Downtown Harlingen manager Edward Meza said about the plan back in 2016. “The first year, there were 4,000 people. It was a safe environment for the kids. Some people from the area were saying there wasn’t anybody in their neighborhood trick or treating. I said they were all here downtown.”
The event has just gained steam ever since.
“Last year, they were shoulder to shoulder from sidewalk to sidewalk from Commerce to Fourth Street,” Meza said of the community event, involving local organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club, the Police Department, Emergency Medical Services, local business owners, the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and Harlingen Public Library, among others.
Other events and activities
“Our downtown is very unique compared to other downtowns,” Downtown Harlingen redevelopment specialist Alexis Alaniz said. “You don’t see downtown McAllen doing these types of events. They do more social, night-time activities. We want to make downtown a venue to have festivals and venues.”
The Halloween event has also led to a slate of other October events in downtown, including a movie night, ghost tours and storefront window decorations.
Each of these events signify the positive relationships the merchants have among each other in downtown. They hope to also spread it to all who visit Jackson Street.
“The majority of merchants see the positives,” Meza said.
About 60 percent of the businesses participate in the window decorating, which starts Oct. 3, but will be judged on Oct. 25. One week earlier, people with an interest in the supernatural can participate in a ghost tour walk. Alaniz and Meza both are excited about the new October activity after RGV Paranormal Investigations spent some time in the Downtown Harlingen office.
“He said there is energy here and that is where the ghosts are,” Meza said.
“There’s this energy that doesn’t want me here,” Alaniz said, smiling about what the investigator report. “They said there is a lady here who doesn’t want another woman in her domain. I felt like a cool air. We are excited about it.”
Benefits of events
However, for the merchants, it is about the entire month of October.
“The downtown business owners realize they are not going to find this anywhere else in the city,” Meza said about the events and activities that are held on Jackson Street. “We do unique things and we do promotions. The business owners understand the value of it all.”