Discover the Minnesota Town Known as the “Halloween Capital of the World”

Halloween pumpkins and decorations outside a house
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Written by Kellianne Matthews

Updated: November 14, 2023

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During the late 1800s, a wave of Irish and Scottish immigrants migrated to the United States, introducing the Celtic festivals of Samhain and Halloween. Today, Halloween remains a widely celebrated holiday throughout the U.S., but in Minnesota, it is especially beloved. With an abundance of festivities and events spread across the state, Minnesota has truly become an unforgettable destination for Halloween enthusiasts from near and far. In fact, there’s one specific town in Minnesota that has taken Halloween to new heights, embracing the holiday spirit year-round. Join us as we explore the Minnesota town known as the “Halloween Capital of the World”!

Anoka, Minnesota was likely the first place in the U.S. where Halloween was celebrated annually.

Welcome to Anoka: The Halloween Capital of the World

Halloween Pumpkins on a porch

Anoka has held a massive Halloween celebration every year since 1920.

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Halloween celebrations in Anoka, Minnesota, are something truly special. For over 100 years, the citizens of Anoka have been putting on an impressive display, celebrating Halloween like nowhere else. In fact, it is believed that Anoka was the very first place in the United States where Halloween was officially celebrated! 

Anoka gets its name from the Dakota word “anokatanhan” which means “on both sides” or “from both sides”. This refers to its picturesque setting, nestled between where the Rum River and the Mississippi River meet. With a population of around 18,000 people, Anoka offers a close-knit community combined with the convenience of nearby urban amenities. 

Where is Anoka, Minnesota?

Map of Anoka in Minnesota

Anoka is part of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area.

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Anoka is a vibrant northern suburb of the Twin Cities and serves as the county seat of Anoka County. It is situated along the picturesque Rum River in southeastern Minnesota, approximately 20 miles north of Minneapolis. 

Over 100 Years of Halloween

Halloween pumpkins and decorations outside a house

The citizens of Anoka love getting into the Halloween spirit!

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The morning following Halloween in 1919, Anoka’s residents awoke to a shocking scene.  Feeling the mischievous spirit of Halloween, many of the city’s local youth orchestrated elaborate pranks throughout the community. There were overturned outhouses, wagons teetering on rooftops, soaped windows, and cows galavanting through the streets. Some of the cows even made it into the county jail! 

Halloween pranks in Anoka were escalating and the city council was concerned about the future. A group of local businessmen and civic leaders, led by George Green, decided the town needed a special Halloween celebration. They hoped this would curb any potential pranks and vandalism during the holiday.

The group organized an exciting Halloween celebration the following year in an effort to provide a secure and enjoyable Halloween experience for everyone. On the evening of Halloween, a grand parade marched down Main Street with lively marching bands and drum corps, the Anoka police and fire departments, local businesses, and the Anoka National Guard. There was also a large bonfire and a costume contest. 

The incredible celebration surpassed all expectations, with no incidents of vandalism or mischief reported on Halloween night that year! Since the event was such a success, the town of Anoka continued its Halloween celebrations year after year. 

In fact, since its inception in 1920, Halloween in Anoka has flourished into one of the largest and most renowned Halloween celebrations in the nation. Within just the first 10 years the celebrations had around 20,000 spectators attending Anoka’s Halloween parade, which included more than 2,000 children marching down Main Street in their costumes. 

How Anoka Became the Halloween Capital of the World

carve pumpkins for Halloween

Anoka hosts a Great Pumpkin Expo and pumpkin carving contests each October.

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As the annual Halloween celebrations continued, people from far and wide began visiting Anoka during the fall season. Then, in 1937 12-year-old Harold Blair was sent to Washington D.C. with a proclamation naming Anoka the official Halloween Capital of the World®! According to the stories, Congress did indeed acknowledge the claim, but unfortunately, a fire destroyed many of the city’s early documents. However, Congress reaffirmed Anoka’s title once again in the 1970s.

Halloween Events and Activities in Anoka

Kids on Halloween trick or treat.

One of the town’s favorite traditions is the Big Parade of Little People.

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Today, Anoka’s Halloween festivities have grown to a month-long celebration, drawing in more than 40,000 people each fall. The Halloween festivities in Anoka are such a beloved tradition that the dedicated Halloween committee convenes all throughout the year in order to meticulously plan. Anoka Halloween, Inc., a nonprofit organization with a 501(c)(3) designation, has expanded its efforts to host over 30 thrilling Halloween events just in the month of October!

For example, Anoka now hosts three Halloween parades. The Big Parade of Little People continues the beloved tradition that started in 1920 with children marching down Main Street in their colorful costumes. The Light Up the Night Parade features illuminated floats and amazing light displays. The Grande Day Parade features marching bands, drum corps, dance performances, Anoka royalty, and floats from local businesses and organizers. It is the signature event of Halloween festivities in Anoka, drawing in over 25,000 spectators each year!

Throughout October, there are various movie nights, paint nights, a dead pub crawl, a medallion hunt, a haunted house, carnivals, and walking ghost tours. During the week of Halloween, there is a 5K or 1 milk walk Ghost Run, three spectacular parades, and the annual bonfire. In addition, Anoka hosts several Halloween-themed contests, including a kids’ costume contest, a pumpkin carving contest, a scarecrow contest, a pumpkin weigh-off, and a house decorating contest. You can also buy amazing Halloween swag at Anoka’s Halloween Store (which is also available online all year round). Once Halloween is over, the city also hosts a fun waste reduction pumpkin-smashing event.

In Anoka, Every Day Is Halloween

Anoka’s jack-o-lantern roundabout was added in 2017 at the intersection of 4th Ave., Military Rd., and Washington St.

However, the city’s enthusiasm for Halloween is not limited to a single month. All throughout the year Anoka citizens proudly proclaim their city as the Halloween Capital of the World. There is now a traffic roundabout painted with a massive jack-o’-lantern, as well as a year-round gift shop and a small museum dedicated to showcasing the rich history of Anoka’s Halloween spirit. 


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About the Author

Kellianne Matthews is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on anthrozoology, conservation, human-animal relationships, and animal behavior. Kellianne has been writing and researching animals for over ten years and has decades of hands-on experience working with a variety of different animals. She holds a Master’s Degree from Brigham Young University, which she earned in 2017. A resident of Utah, Kellianne enjoys creating, exploring and learning new things, analyzing movies, caring for animals, and playing with her cats.

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