Parade marchers welcome the great pumpkin at Wild Rumpus on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019, in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Tristen T. Webb, tristentwebb.com)

The Wild Rumpus is back in town, but this year it’ll look a little different. The event is calling all freaks and creatures of the night to stay socially distanced and participate on their own, but that doesn’t take away from any chance to show off the costumes and artwork, and participate in traditions.

This year’s Halloween will be brightly lit by a full moon, exciting Rumpus participants more than ever, especially the director of Wild Rumpus Timi Conley.

“We’ll be howling at the moon when it’s time,” Conley said. “It’ll bring that collective energy when we’re all outside doing it at the same time, reminding us that even from a distance, we’re still a community.”

For the past 12 years, the Wild Rumpus hosted a parade of roughly 10,000 people in downtown Athens, all dressed up for Halloween, trick-or-treating and listening to live music intending to bring a community of “freaks and beasts” together. It soon became an Athens Halloween tradition as the streets of downtown became flooded with creative spirits.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hindered the ability to gather in large numbers this year, and the event could not receive a permit to host the parade in downtown Athens, Conley said. Additionally, Conley did not want to turn the Wild Rumpus into a super spreader event and decided it was in the locals’ best interest to hold it elsewhere, which really means everywhere.

To do so, the Rumpus directors recently developed a plan to safely host the festivities through online Halloween segments and encouragement to keep the party going from home.

“I think the spirit of the Rumpus is just joyful, and it’s an interjection of fun and lightness-of-being,” Conley said. “There’s nothing like it, and we all really need a break from the grind of this year, so I think it’s important for the Rumpus to continue.”

By posting costumes on social media and sharing parades of small groups of people, Conley hopes to see the community come together in spirit.

There will be livestreamed music from a variety of Athens bands, which have not been announced as of press time. Giving these bands the opportunity to have a livestreamed gig is very important to Conley and the rest of Wild Rumpus because it employs musicians who may have been struggling with canceled concerts and tours this year.

“For some musicians, this might be their only gig a lot of them get,” Conley said. “Unbelievably, when I speak with some musicians and ask them to perform they’ll say that they haven’t even practiced since March.”

On Halloween night when Rumpus-goers choose to gather together, Conley wants everyone to follow safety guidelines by wearing masks and avoid gathering in large groups of people they may not know. Whether it’s meeting with roommates, family members or close friends, it’s safer to gather in smaller groups and wave at other small groups across the street than have a “big sweaty dance party,” Conley said.

The Wild Rumpus is continuing many sponsorships from previous years, such as Creature Comforts and the Athens Downtown Development Authority, who provided the Wild Rumpus with a Community Enhancement Program grant, and many other private sponsors.

The money from the sponsorships goes towards the making of Wild Rumpus as well as donating to their chosen charity, UGA Food2Kids, a nonprofit, student organization that partners with the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia.

“All in all, we want to make our city happy, keep the COVID-19 numbers down and just have a good time,” Conley said.

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