The fifth conjuring of the Witches of Gulfport’s annual Witches Walk drew its largest crowd ever Oct. 29 which could prompt community organizers to look for an alternative venue for the popular Halloween gathering.
The annual Witches of Gulfport event drew an estimated 300 people to the waterfront area near Beach and Shore Boulevards.
“We will have to find a new location for the dance,” said Suzanne King, who helps organize the gathering.
King’s SIK Promotions helps organize and put on multiple events across Pinellas County, including GeckoFest and the Tarpon Springs Seafood Festival.
“It grew from last year,” King said of the Gulfport witches’ confab.
She said this year’s Witches Walk was the fifth reprisal of the event with the first one drawing 13 people who dressed as witches to celebrate Halloween.
“It’s done to support local businesses,” King said of attendees patronizing local shops, restaurants and bars.
Crowds grew to 50, 75 and 100 in succeeding years, King told The Gabber.
King said part of the gathering included Halloween witches doing a short, four-minute dance in the street. The problem was attendees didn’t promptly clear the streets after the dance, King said.
Gulfport Police Chief Robert Vincent said local law enforcement received one call about the large street gathering.
Wondering how big the crowd was? Take a look at video from the 2022 Witches Dance, submitted by Elizabeth Hendricks.
“We had one call about the crowd blocking the roadway. Officers were able to get them to move out of the road [with] no arrests or citations,” Vincent said.
Attendees’ reactions to the police clearing the streets after the dance were split.
“After the dance was over they gave us a grace period for clearing the street, then they came along and flipped the lights and asked us to clear the street for regular traffic again,” Jen Shumilak told The Gabber.
“They were fine with us blocking the main road to follow the marching band and then do the dance. Gulfport police have always been great with us. This is definitely the biggest turnout that I have seen.”
There were attendees from Tampa, St. Petersburg, and other parts of Pinellas County, at the event’s latest incarnation, according to organizers and boosters of the weekend event.
Others were annoyed with Gulfport police moving the Halloween weekend crowd after the street dance.
“We all thought it was uncalled for,” said Margret Pederson Fry, who also attended the festivities.
The Witches Walk did not obtain any special city permits for the event, according to King and city officials.
King said she wants to avoid getting permits, worrying the Halloween celebration will lose some of its community feel.
“We don’t want it to belong to anyone,” said King, who also cited the costs, including insurance requirements and logistics of pulling a permit.
She said the event’s dance portion could be moved to the beach or a park but will stay in Gulfport.
“It’s wicked fun,” she said.