Anoka, MN: Halloween Capital of the World

255As bold as Anoka’s self-proclamation of the “Halloween Capital of the World” may be, it doesn’t appear anyone is really questioning it, and they don’t plan to give it up anytime soon.  See, in 1920,  Anoka, a northwestern suburb of Minneapolis, hosted what is believed to be the first Halloween celebration of its kind.  This was done in part to “divert its youngsters from Halloween pranks.”

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They prepared for weeks in advance and kicked off the big day with a parade, where local schoolkids dressed up in costumes and marched down main street.  They were given bags of candy and the night continued on with a big bonfire near the town square. It was wildly successful, kicking off an annual tradition that still continues to this day.In the 1960’s, Anoka residents even took their cause to Washington D.C., to officially be recognized as the Halloween Capital of the World.

Anoka_hw Each year different events are added, and the celebration has went from one day to weeks of activities.  They now do a house-decorating contest, costume contests, a 5K, multiple parades, and all kinds of other stuff you would typically find at a town festival. The down is decked out in Halloween-related decor, such as the downtown streetlamp posts as well as the shop storefronts and municipal buildings.

107_1065Even on top of City Hall there is a neon Jack-o-lantern that lights up at night.  Unfortunately I passed through Anoka during the day and it was barely visible and not lit up, therefore resulting in no picture of said Jack-o-lantern, but a few of the signs around town. Anoka also has a pretty cool little historic downtown in which the Mississippi River meanders through, and there is a nice dam to add to the ambiance. This town certainly makes it into our top 20 coolest towns of Minnesota. 107_1067So Minnesota makes it on the map for yet another claim, and they’ve taken it and ran with it and no one can really dispute the success of it.  I suppose it’s probably impossible to prove who technically had the first Halloween celebration, being the tradition of All-Hallow’s Eve dates back to the 1700’s, but Anoka’s claim seems to be holding up.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Thanks For the Memories: Gone But Not Forgotten

Over the years, roadside attractions come and go.  Sometimes they are destroyed, moved, fall into disrepair, or re-purposed. Sometimes the land they are on is privatized or updated for commercial purposes. Either way, it’s always sad to see them go.  The following list of attractions in Minnesota (and one North Dakota) were photographed in the past 5 years and have suffered an unfortunate fate.  But now, their memories can live on!

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Concordia Language Villages, Bemidji, MN

This week at HighwayHighlights.com, we take a tour around the world – right here in Minnesota, at the Concordia Language Villages outside of Bemidji, MN. This intriguing place, a summer-camp set up consisting of 6 different “countries,” is located northwest of Bemidji in a classic Minnesota northwoods setting, deep in a beautiful forested lakes area. The Concordia Language Village is a world-language and culture education program that aims to prepare young people for responsible citizenship in the global community.2013-10-15 13.38.29 HDR Continue reading