A Wilmington Original

40 Years of the Halloween Loop

For more than three decades, Out & About has been writing advances for this one-of-a-kind Halloween celebration. Following are reflections of Loops pastfrom the creators of the concept to the bartenders on the front lines. In parenthesis is the date the reflection appeared in Out & About.

In The Beginning

The thing I remember most about that first Halloween Loop (1980) was its size. It was probably between 6,000 and 10,000 people on Market Street Mall, which was unheard of on a Friday night. There were so many people that they couldn’t fit in the bars, and this whole sub-culture party started happening on the mall. That was such a great thing.
— Donna Marie King, former Director of Cultural Affairs, City of Wilmington & Loop co-founder (1999)

Scheduled for the Friday night following Thanksgiving in 1979, the Loop was born. After that, Loops were held monthlyalways on the full moonamong the smattering of clubs along Market and Ninth streets where Wilmington’s nightlife then centered. When Halloween 1980 rolled around, the Loop became a landmark event.
— Jon Springer, Out & About Magazine editor (1999)

Back in the ‘90s, we used to stage buses for the Halloween Loop in a downtown Wilmington parking lot adjacent to the Sheraton Suites. Today, that site is all grown up and the 15-story building situated at 500 Delaware Ave. is home to a variety of serious businesses. Oh, but if those sidewalks could talk.
— Jerry duPhily, Out & About Magazine publisher (2009)

On The Spectacle

[Former general manager Rob Mayer was told to stay home during his first year of employment at Kelly’s Logan House.] “I’ve worked every Halloween Loop since then, but I was hired in ’94, it was the week before the Loop and [management] was afraid I’d quit if I didn’t have prior experiences with crowds.”
— Rob Mayer, general manager of Kelly’s Logan House (2001)

I’ve been to Mardi Gras, and I have to say the Loop is the one thing it’s most similar to. It was like Wilmington was New Orleans and the Market Street Mall was the French Quarter.
— Bob Bowersox, Fine Times Magazine contributor, radio & TV personality, Loop co-founder (1999)

While we dispatched buses, gave directions, and consoled college kids who’d lost their buddies and often their lunch, we’d watch the cars wheeling into town from the I-95 exit ramp. A spectacle it was. There were the Beatles in a Jeep Wrangler. Dracula in a Dodge Neon. Judge Ito and O.J. Simpson in a …yes…white Ford Bronco. And my personal favorite: A foursome of Elvis Presleys in a pink Cadillac.
— Jerry duPhily, Out & About Magazine publisher (2009)

I have to give kudos to whoever organized this mother of all partiesit’s been great for the City of Wilmington. I remember the first 10 years and how most of the bars and activities were centered around the Market Street Mall, all within a few blocks of each other. Market Street from Second to Ninth looked like an endless parade of costumes and spectators that took on a Mardi Gras-like atmosphere. In the ‘90s, the Loop spread out to other parts of the city with bus service to the West Side and the waterfront. In the last 10 years, it’s grown even larger with the Trolley Square crowd and beyond. And the costumes have gotten more creative, skimpier and risqué all the while.
— John Barbieri, aka Johnny Smoke and Kiss’s Gene Simmons impersonator (2009)

We do about three weeks of business in one night.
— Paul Ogden, then owner of Bank Shots Union Street (2003)

On The Costumes

Collaborative costumes are always the best. One year a couple dressed as the Titanic, and the year of the O.J. Simpson trial, two guys dressed as O.J. and Judge Ito.
— Stan Yau, owner of Epoch on Union Street (2002)

Every Halloween Loop I have people coming up to me asking, “Have you seen a doctor? Have you seen an M&M?” When people lose a member of their group, they’re always intent on finding them by their costume. My advice: Come up with [something original].
— Rob Mayer, general manager of Kelly’s Logan House (2001)

The best one I saw was a guy dressed as a giant condom. His face and arms stuck out of this big, white plastic tube. It even had a reservoir tip on his head.
— Jose, bartender, Hot Tamales (2000)

[One of my all-time] favorite costumes were two medieval warriors. They were very authentic. So authentic that I had to check their weapons at the door.
— Chris White, general manager of Kid Shelleens (2001)

A couple came in dressed as an electric socket and a plug. The woman wore a white box with black felt for the holes, while the man had prongs sticking out of his chest.
— Chris, bartender, Scratch Magoo’s (2000)

A friend of ours came dressed as Anna Nicole Smith, complete with fake breasts and a purse made from a KFC bucket.
— Rob, bartender, Gallucio’s (2000)

We’d have these great debates on what to call it. Everybody was coming up with elaborate, creative names, but I kept saying: “If this thing is successful, people are going to have a few drinks and not remember it in the morning. We have to call it something simple.”
— Donna Marie King, former Director of Cultural Affairs, City of Wilmington Loop co-founder (1999)

[Bob Bowersox recalls the name was inspired by a recent trip he’d taken to Chicago, where the lakefront promenade is known as the Loop.] “I think it came from that.”
— Bob Bowersox, Fine Times Magazine contributor, radio & TV personality, Loop co-founder (1999)

For more information about this year’s Halloween Loop Costume Ball at The Queen – and to get tickets – go to: https://www.thequeenwilmington.com/EventDetail?tmeventid=0200570EDDF38CDE&offerid=110865

So, what do you think? Please comment below.