Badgers have been celebrating Halloween with a party on State Street since 1977, when about 5,000 costumed revelers crowded the area and used cardboard boxes to start a bonfire. In 1979, UW–Madison students made the holiday an official event, with the Wisconsin Student Association selling beer as a fundraiser for the UW’s student government, and by 1981, the crowd reached nearly 100,000 attendees. The popularity of the Halloween bash diminished after 1983, when an attendee fell from the roof of the University Book Store, and paramedics were unable to help him when other partiers stole the keys to their ambulance. In the early 2000s, crowd sizes began to spike again. In 2002, police used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the party — the first time since the Vietnam War riots 30 years earlier that Madison police had used tear gas. In 2006, the city closed State Street around Halloween and created Freakfest, a paid-admission block party with concerts and films. Mayhem has largely diminished since then.
The art for the Badger Pride Wall was created for WAA by Madison illustrator Nate Koehler.