This Cleveland tradition is a safe and free community event that is enjoyed each year by young and old alike. For one evening each year, 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 26 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 annual attendance of 10,000 to 15,000. MainStreet, under the direction of Sharon Marr, has continued to refine the schedule, add vendors and book top flight entertainment. This year more than 40 booths will offer all types of delicious foods including barbecued ribs, grilled chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, funnel cakes and more.
Headlining the entertainment this year will be the popular regional party band Convertibull who will take the stage at 6 p.m., followed by the ’80s tribute band The Breakfast Club at 8 p.m. The Chilhowee Dance and Performing Arts Troupe will open the festivities at 5 p.m.
One of the most popular attractions is the Halloween costume contest sponsored by Mars Chocolate. 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 at 5 p.m. in six categories; 0 to 2 years of age, 3 to 5 years, 6 to 8 years, 9 to 12 years, 13 to 15 years, and 16 to 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 open at 6 p.m. and 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.
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 and inflatables, 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.”