Hoping boos are boon for business

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HauntFest, the first grand Halloween event held in downtown El Cajon last Friday evening marked the beginning of a new image for the city. 

Jeff Davis, executive director of the Promenade District and one of the sponsors of the event said that this was one of many more signature events planned for the city to spotlight El Cajon as a beautiful and safe place to come shop, dine, and entertain.

HauntFest, the first grand Halloween event held in downtown El Cajon last Friday evening marked the beginning of a new image for the city. 

Jeff Davis, executive director of the Promenade District and one of the sponsors of the event said that this was one of many more signature events planned for the city to spotlight El Cajon as a beautiful and safe place to come shop, dine, and entertain.

 The event was intended by its promoters to attract locals as well as people from all areas of the county to come to downtown El Cajon and enjoy a favorite holiday and at the same time experience El Cajon’s new image.

 Davis believes that in the past, the city had a negative connotation that made people not want to come to El Cajon.  He said, “We want to create events that will bring people from “outside East County so we can change their minds.” He said he wants people to see how beautiful the city is and bring their commerce.   “We won’t have to tell people how great El Cajon is because they will be able to see it.  They will want to spend their money in our shops and restaurants,” he said.

 These types of events should pay for themselves since the stakeholders/business owners are the investors, Davis emphasized. “I want to see a return on their investment.  I want to see that their spaces are rented, that their property values go up and that their lease rates go up too,” he said.

 The event cost the sponsors $25,000 to put on.  They raised approximately $12,000 for the night.  St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center was also a sponsor.

  The event was a huge draw with the most people ever in downtown according to Davis. 

 There were no incidents of crime or, injuries.  Davis said they worked closely with the El Cajon Police Department.  The police department provided a horse patrol as well as foot patrols.

 According to his figures approximately, 15,000 people attended the event that featured 20 bands situated in different locations within the Promenade boundaries, a car show on

Main street, a costume contest,  adult and children’s art contests, a beer garden, commercial booths and restaurants with indoor and outdoor service. Most of the restaurants on Main Street were full with patrons. 

 The “F” Street book store was closed for business the duration of the event.  An information booth where adults and children gathered faced the store’s entrance.

“Awesome” was the word commonly used by people at the HauntFest to describe the event experience.  Woody Downing from Rancho San Diego said that these types of events bring out the spirit of the community.  It is good to get people out he said.

Debbie Tracy from Lakeside thought it was an awesome family gathering.  Her one year old toddler came dressed in a 1940’s colorful Carmen Miranda costume which included a bandana with fruit on top.

 The four in nun costumes having fun dancing at the Downtown Café Bar and Grill wanted to be known as the sisters of “Perpetual Naughtiness,” according to Marrilee Farmers and Tai Farmers. “We are having a blast. It is amazing that El Cajon could pull this off.  I hope they can do this again next year,” said Merrilee.  The four nuns are wives of The Farmers band members.

 Ten year olds Tanner Weaver and Russell Tracy thought HauntFest was awesome.  They particularly loved the car show.  The 1957 original Woody wagon was their favorite. Weaver said that all the cars were “cool,” and “tricked” He was dressed as an evil jester.

Six year old Andrew Campbell said he loved the cars and the Woody wagon.

 Other costumes included Alice in the Wonderland, Little Bo Peep, the female and male pirates, Dorothy and the Tin Man, the man size dog and while there were others, the Man Eating monster dressed all in black and wearing a devil pig face brought terror and a political message.  He said, “I eat humans because I am tired of people eating pigs.”

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