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Amid quieter party scene, Isla Vista costume shop keeps Halloween spirit alive

Halloween in Isla Vista
Ryan Fish/KEYT
Halloween in Isla Vista isn't the big event it once was.

ISLA VISTA, Calif. - Once notorious for its rowdy street parties, Isla Vista was a Halloween haunt for college students across the state looking for a good time.

Now, the party scene has changed.

“I think most people leave [for Halloween],” UC Santa Barbara student Jeike Meijer said. 

Parking restrictions and a heavy police presence have made the party scene safer and more subdued in recent years. 

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office reported 225 arrests and 51 medical transports during 2013’s Halloween festivities in Isla Vista, with a crowd of more than 12,000 people gathering in town.

The sheriff’s office reported only nine arrests and two medical transports in 2018.

Students looking for a rowdy Halloween weekend now have to go elsewhere to find it.

“Visit friends in Cal Poly SLO or go to L.A.,” UCSB student Amelia Armstrong said, describing the mindset some students have. “Just kind of get out of the area.”

Thursday night is college night for bars on State Street in downtown Santa Barbara, where many students were expected to spend their Halloween night.

“I think it’s an interesting year this year,” Meijer said. “This is the first year people are doing downtown, because Thursday’s the downtown day. So that seems like it’ll be the new thing this year. It might not stick for next year.”

The halloween spirit in I.V. is not dead, however. There’s plenty of it here at Sweet Jane, a costume and party store on Trigo Road.

“It’s perfect because we have a ton of costume wear, girls’ wear so they can fix up their costumes,” UCSB student and store employee Eitan Oettinger said. “Lot of face paints. So I guess it’s the only kind of Halloween store in the area.”

With free Henna tattoos in front of the store and a constant stream of students at the register late Thursday afternoon, Halloween is like Christmas at Sweet Jane.

“It’s a good time of year,” owner Stella Terbin said. “It gets crazy, it gets rushed. But it’s a rush.”

Terbin says she loves seeing the students come in year round. Although Halloween in I.V. is quieter now, the store still has plenty of customers.

“It was different before, but [students are] still buying stuff, they’re still partying,” Terbin said.

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Ryan Fish

Ryan Fish is a reporter, sports anchor and forecaster at KEYT|KCOY|KKFX.