This Cleveland tradition is a safe and free community event that is enjoyed each year by young and old alike. For one evening each Halloween, MainStreet Cleveland transforms the downtown area into a community festival haunted by ghouls, goblins and ghosts embellished by outstanding entertainment on the courthouse stage.
The roots of this community tradition began to grow in 1980 in the home of Allan Jones on Centenary Avenue. That was the year "Tall Betsy” made her first appearance. She has since become the community’s best known "goblin.”
In the years following, crowds would gather on Centenary Avenue hoping to get a glimpse of Tall Betsy. In time the crowds grew so large that a group of citizens began planning a Halloween festival on the Courthouse Square. The existing candy giveaway sponsored by the Cleveland Police department and the Tall Betsy appearance were combined into what is now the Halloween Block Party. It has been sponsored, hosted and organized by MainStreet Cleveland for the past 25 years. In 1989 the Tennessee Legislature recognized "Tall Betsy” as Bradley County’s official Halloween Goblin in honor of her inspiration for the Block Party.
The popularity of the Block Party has grown through the years with an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 in attendance last year. MainStreet, under the direction of Sharon Marr, has continued to refine the schedule, add vendors and book top flight entertainment. This year 50 vendors are scheduled to set up shop on the Courthouse Square. There will be a variety of great food available so plan on bringing the entire family and each one can have a food selection of their choice.
Headlining the entertainment this year is the popular Southern Rock group from the 1990s, Drivin’ N Cryin’ from Atlanta. The group will perform on the Check into Cash Stage at 8:15. The Chilhowee Dance & Performing Arts group will entertain the crowd at 5 p.m. followed by Second Hand Smoke at 5:30. A local favorite, Dexter Thomas Band will perform at 6:30.
The Museum Center at Five Points will also participate in the Block Party again this year by sponsoring Storytelling Night and a Pumpkin Carving contest. Family-friendly Halloween stories will be told by costumed members of the Cleveland Storytelling Guild. Kids can make fun Halloween crafts and the entire family will enjoy the annual Jack-O-Lantern Contest. It’s all free of charge with plenty of parking.
One of the most popular attractions is the Halloween costume contest. Everyone is invited to dress in their best ghoulish outfit and join the fun. First, second and third place trophies will be awarded from the Fun Stage located at the Post Office Annex behind the Courthouse on Broad Street. Judging will begin Wednesday at 6 p.m. in 6 categories; 0 to 2 years, 3 to 5 years, 6 to 8 years, 9 to 12 years, 13 to 15 years, 16 and adults. Every entry will receive Halloween treats compliments of Mars Snack food.
The venue for the Halloween Block Party includes Church, Ocoee and Broad streets. The always popular Treat Street will be located on Church Street in front of the Police Services Center. Every child visiting Treat Street will receive a big bag from Cooke’s Food Store with Mars Snack food providing the goodies to fill each one. In honor of the party’s Silver Anniversary, M&M Mars Snack Foods will be bringing 15,000 bags of chocolate to the event, 5,000 more than last year.
Much of the focus of the Block Party is on children. The Cleveland Police Department and Bradley County Sheriff's Office will sponsor the DARE Midway with lots of air toys, including a giant slide and bouncers. Schools, churches and businesses round out the festival with dozens of vendor booths and activities that include face painting, commemorative photos, great food and more.
The Halloween Block Party is a clear example of why our community is so unique. The cooperation between the many sponsors, civic groups, volunteers and government agencies combine to create a great feeling of community and fellowship. It’s just another reason I like to say… "Bradley County is Tennessee at its best.”