Moonfest turns to rain fest, slashing attendance at Halloween event

4:26 p.m Monday, Oct. 30, 2017 Local
A pair of Moonfest guests avoid the rain in downtown West Palm Beach on Saturday. Heavy rains from Tropical Storm Philippe poured over the event in bursts, but some nonetheless braved the weather to enjoy the concerts, drinks and food on Clematis Street. (Andres Leiva / The Palm Beach Post)

For Maurice Costigan, the scariest part of this year’s Moonfest on Saturday night wasn’t the people walking around downtown with blood streaming from their eyeballs.

It was the rain.

Costigan and Rodney Mayo, for 25 years the organizers of the Halloween street party, were all-in long before Tropical Storm Philippe tracked across South Florida radar. They hired an event manager three or four months ago to piece together the event, which last year drew 21,000 people to Clematis Street.

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Rocky Rucker of Space Coast Ghosts performs during Moonfest in downtown West Palm Beach on Saturday, October 28, 2017. Heavy rains from Tropical Storm Philippe poured over the event in bursts, but some nonetheless braved the weather to enjoy the concerts, drinks and food on Clematis Street. (Andres Leiva / The Palm Beach Post)

READ: Why the tropics bear watching this November

The two bar owners put on the charity event every year with the help of many volunteers, taking out for themselves only enough earnings to put it on again the next year, while giving the rest to the American Cancer Society, Little Smiles and a suicide prevention nonprofit, among others. But still, there’s the event management to pay, employees, tents, stages, bands….

“Once we started to set up, canceling it wasn’t really an option,” Costigan said. “Moonfest would be gone forever if we had to cancel at that phase.”

Besides, the weather reports were “mixed,” he said. By the time tornado warnings cropped up it was too late to react, and they were past the area by 7 p.m. anyway and Moonfest wasn’t starting until 8. “It was just a nightmare, trying to pray to the weather god.”

PHOTOS: 20 of the scariest things in Palm Beach County

They hoped for the best and opened the gates despite the heavy rain.

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Madison Kalish of Lake Worth poses for a portrait dressed as a carnival creep during Moonfest. (Andres Leiva / The Palm Beach Post)

Predictably, two-thirds of the crowd stayed away but the event went off without a hitch.

The costume contest went on a little late at 12:30 a.m., but it went on, the bands played and a good time was had, he said. “The people that did come seemed to have a blast.”

Final attendance numbers haven’t been tallied but he estimated the headcount at 7,000. So, multiply the 14,000 who didn’t show up by $10-$15 a ticket and you get a hint of how far below last year the gate totalled.

“Rodney and myself had to put money in on our own,” Costigan said. “Financially it was a disaster but if we canceled it would have been a bigger disaster.”

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
A pair of Moonfest guests are seen holding umbrellas while on the sidewalk during Moonfest in downtown West Palm Beach on Saturday, October 28, 2017. Heavy rains from Tropical Storm Philippe poured over the event in bursts, but some nonetheless braved the weather to enjoy the concerts, drinks and food on Clematis Street. (Andres Leiva / The Palm Beach Post)

In 25 years of putting on the show, they’ve had bad weather before. But “this is by far and away the worst we’ve ever had to deal with,” Costigan lamented Monday, as sad fiddle music played in the background of his O’Shea’s Irish Pub.

“There won’t be a lot to give away this year.”

As for whether there’ll be another Moonfest, they haven’t had time to sit down and talk it through. He’s mostly been sleeping, because he didn’t get to close his eyes until 7 a.m. Sunday.

“I think I changed my clothes five times that night. And I still don’t think I’ve fully dried out.”

But he’s not discouraged, he insisted. “I’d feel bad if it was a mistake we made but it’s not. The weather, there’s nothing you can do about it.”

View full experience