Anoka, Minnesota is a small town with a big history. It is believed to be the first city in the United States to celebrate Halloween, and since 1920, it has been doing so every year. Anoka has become known as the “Halloween Capital of the World”, and it is easy to see why. Every October, the city comes alive with a variety of activities such as dances, parties, games, concerts, fireworks, community songs, races, costume contests and a window decoration contest for local merchants.
The tradition of celebrating Halloween in Anoka began in 1856 when a ferry was established that crossed the Mississippi River and connected Anoka to the city of Champlin. In October 1920, Anoka's Halloween legacy began and it has been celebrated ever since. The city held a big parade and the Anoka County Union documented that 500 disguised Anokans roamed the streets amidst clouds of confetti and paper streamers. Unfortunately, a fire in Anoka destroyed many of Anoka's early Halloween documents, so there is no paper record to prove whether or not Congress confirmed the proclamation.
But for all its modesty, the city in central Minnesota is also home to many stories, and this one begins with a 101-year Halloween anarchy. Following the decline of sawmills in late 1885, a Board of Trade was organized to encourage other industries to move to Anoka. In the early 1920s, Anoka merchants and other interested citizens banded together to stop Halloween pranks. The first settler in the Anoka area was Joseph Belanger who built a log cabin on the east side of the Rum River near its mouth. Today, Anoka is renowned as the “Halloween Capital of the World” and it is easy to understand why. Every October, this small town comes alive with an array of activities such as dances, parties, games, concerts, fireworks, community songs, races, costume contests and a window decoration contest for local merchants.
The Grey Ghost 5K race and three parades are also part of this festive season. But even when Halloween isn't in full swing, it's still very clear that it's still the Halloween capital of the world with a traffic roundabout painted like a giant lantern and a gift shop with a small museum that is open all year round and is dedicated to sharing the story of how Anoka earned its coveted nickname.