In April 2013, Jeremy Schnall rode his bike from where he lived on Coral Way to a bar in Wynwood. He met his friend Christian Deese, who was there with several mutual friends, and struck up a conversation with one of them. This is the unremarkable way he would start his relationship with his future wife and mother of his child, Monique.
Now imagine that all of this happened with Schnall in a long wig and bathrobe, and Monique wearing the red sweater and white bucket cap of Gilligan’s Island fame, just because Halloween was about six months away. That’s what Halfoween is all about.
“That's the magic of it,” Schnall says. “How would you describe the last time you were out at a bar with a bunch of friends? Now just all be in costume for no particular reason.”
This wasn’t exactly the impetus for the first Halfoween seven years ago, a small gathering in Deese’s apartment. The idea was something more like, why should we only use our Halloween costumes once a year?
“The turnout wasn’t great – maybe ten people,” Deese says of that first iteration. “So I thought it would be better as a bar crawl because it seemed more likely that people would come out.”
After a couple lukewarm years in the grove, Deese moved the crawl to Wynwood, its current home. Since then, the turnout has grown each year, with a peak of about 50. The crowd is far from the real Halloween madness; the costumes are thrown together last minute or salvaged from Goodwill, and most of the revelers are Deese’s friends and acquaintances.
“Funny, a little random, and definitely sincere is Christian in a nutshell,” says Everett Guerny, a six-time Halfoween attendee. “When he invited me to a costume party at his place, in April, I knew not to question it, since you know you're always going to have a good time with Christian and the people around him.”
Although Halfoween is not solely Deese’s brainchild, he has managed to create a loyal following. And why not? Rolling 50-plus deep into a bar on a random Saturday night in full costume not only sounds fun – it sounds down right necessary.
“It’s the perfect thing for Miami,” Schnall passionately explains. “It can suffer from that image thing. We're concerned about what we wear and we get judged on this or that. To just throw that all out the window and wear something that’s completely and utterly ridiculous, and wear that with confidence like it was any other night...I think that’s the unsaid reason [Halfoween] is so successful.”
Guerny puts it slightly differently: “Halfoween is easily more fun than legit-Halloween," he explains. "You get the fun of the costume party thing with a dose of almost…performance art? Other people's reactions — confusion, incredulity, amusement, questioning their own sobriety out loud — are awesome. You could call it a nice thing to do for the people around you.” Scnhall called this the “day-brightening aspect.”
Aside from the thrill of getting asked to take selfies with random strangers or being shouted at from high-rise balconies, Halfoween provides a creative outlet, a dose of absurdity, possibly even a “counter-douchey” Miami panacea – which is why everyone should join in one the fun. The night’s fearless leader hopes that Halfoween will one day grow to the point where he might not even need to organize them anymore. So what’s his call to the people? Says Deese:
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“Just wear something that looks like a costume. Come meet some fun people.”
The words of a true visionary, to be sure.
6 p.m. Saturday, April 29, starting at Wood Tavern, 2531 NW Second Ave., Miami; 305-748-2828; woodtavern.com. No cover.