Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Decades have passed since the dawn of a locally-popular Halloween event. Year after year local Halloween fans congregate in Deadwood, S.D., for the annual Deadweird festival.

Featuring various events such as costume contests, haunted houses and the locally-famed Monster Ball, this two-day Halloween party is among the most popular events Deadwood has to offer throughout the year.

“It’s big,” said Amanda Kille, the marketing and sponsorship director at the Deadwood Chamber of Commerce. “We usually have five to six hundred entries for our official costume contest. However, some of those could be groups, so the actual number of participating people – I suspect – is somewhere between one thousand to fifteen hundred people.”

The costume contest participants alone often outnumber the official population of Deadwood, which is listed at 1,201 as of 2021.

“I would say [Deadweird] is for sure the biggest fall event that we have,” Kille said. “I think it rivals New Year’s Eve as far as attendance.”

Aside from the events and games specifically designed to promote fun, Deadweird is also a final financial push for the Deadwood economy before the dead of winter.

“Depending on the year, [Deadweird] is our biggest or second-biggest event before the year ends,” Kille said. “So from an economic development standpoint, [Deadweird] is really critical to help carry businesses through the winter, especially in the beginning while [businesses] are waiting for the snowmobile trails and Terry Peak to open.”

Over the years Deadweird has undergone a consistent process of refinement in order to create a safer environment for Halloween fanatics.

Recently, the Deadwood Chamber of Commerce placed a restriction on the festival, only allowing those who are 21 or older to participate in the official Deadweird events. There are also specified zones throughout downtown Deadwood that will be designated as open-container areas and off-limits to those who cannot legally consume alcohol.

Although Deadweird itself isn’t the most family-friendly event, the Deadwood Chamber of Commerce has added other events to accommodate those with a younger Halloween spirit.

“We don’t just do Deadweird, we also do Trunk or Treat for the community,” said Sarah Kryger, the event coordinator at the Deadwood Chamber of Commerce. “Deadweird, of course, is for 21 or over, so we do have Kidweird. Kidweird is always around on Halloween and that’s over at the Deadwood Mountain Grand.”

Kidweird hosts a number of kid-friendly events. Following Kidweird, the Deadwood community also puts on the Trunk or Treat event, where trick-ortreaters can participate in the age-old Halloween tradition in a more controlled, safer environment.

Deadwood holds a long standing tradition of celebrating Halloween as a whole community. “A long time before Deadweird was even an actual Chamber [of Commerce] event, it used to be spread out all over town,” Kryger said. “People would go to different locations throughout town to get judged [on their costumes]. Then they would make their way up to finale and the grand prize.”

When the Deadwood Chamber of Commerce took over the citywide Halloween costume competition, it condensed it to specific
areas within the town to allow for some of the local businesses to host their own events separate from the official Deadweird festivities.

Despite the reduced area of the Deadweird events, the festival still takes up much of the attention of the Chamber of Commerce employees.

“[The planning] starts months in advance because we have to look at locations to host the Monster Ball,” Kryger said. “We have to make sure we’ve got entertainment for that night. Then we go though the city and make sure that we can get street closure because the streets get closed from four p.m. until five a.m. all the way from Wall Street to Pine Street. Then I request open container for Friday and Saturday nights… I’ve got [the plans] for Deadwood turned into the city three or four months before the actual event.”

These months of planning also ensure that the weekend will run as smoothly as possible and keep visitors safe during one of the largest Halloween festivals in South Dakota.

About the Contributor
Nathan Feller, Editor-in-Chief