After a gloomy three-hour drive on rainy highways, my friends and I arrived in Athens. Although the evening was dark and cold, the town's Halloween festivities were well underway.
Before embarking on the trip, I thought that it'd be interesting to observe the kinds of costumes that both Miami and OU had on display during the frightening festivities. In the spirit of the age-old rivalry between the two universities, who had the better costumes?
The narrow streets and tightly packed buildings of Athens gave the town an intimate vibe. The roads wound throughout frat houses and school buildings alike, at inclines that made the area feel more like San Francisco than Oxford.
All along the darkened lanes of the town, Halloween parties glowed. Although the weekend's main event -- the massive block party -- wouldn't take place until the following evening, the sidewalks were packed with costume-clad revelers.
The first fiesta I found was filled to the brim with fantastic costumes. Partiers spilled out onto the porch of the ranch-style home, creating a wall of brightly dressed people and making it difficult to navigate the densely packed interior. Greeting me on the porch, Aang, the protagonist from "Avatar: The Last Airbender" stood proudly. Garbed in ornate yellow and orange monk's robes, the individual behind the costume had even shaved and dyed their hair so that it mimicked the blue arrow that streaks across the character's head.
Inside the party, Doctor Strange, wrapped in a lavish red cape and adorned with a glowing green amulet, chatted with the jumpsuit-clad Beatrix Kiddo from Kill Bill. Wirt, a character from the cartoon "Over the Garden Wall," was easily distinguishable from anywhere in the house, as his tall, red, cone-shaped hat towered at least a foot over everyone else. Decked in furs and blue facepaint, William Wallace sat outside and shared a cigar with Maverick from "Top Gun." Amidst the chaos, Michael Moore wound through the party, interviewing individuals with a prop microphone and characteristic dry wit.
"People here take Halloween pretty seriously," said Grant Crawford, a freshman at OU. "The costumes are always great, and the block party is like a riot, but instead of everyone being angry, they're just drunk."
As the night continued and my friends and I hiked up and down the steep Athens streets, no subsequent party quite matched the caliber of outfits from the first event. There were still plenty of good costumes, though. As we scoured the tiny town, we saw a second, equally elaborate Doctor Strange, a fairy princess with glittering wings and a gilded crown and Jareth, David Bowie's character from the "Labyrinth," wild 80s hair and graceful eye makeup applied to perfection.
One night and another three hour drive later, we were back in Oxford and ready for the second round of outfit observations. The hour grew late and my friends and I set off into the streets of uptown, eyes peeled for the best costumes Oxford had to offer.
I found that, although Miamians match the students of OU in their exuberance for festivities, they fall sadly short in the costume department.
On High Street, the lines for bars like Brick Street and New Bar were littered with store-bought superhero outfits and bright onesies of animals and monsters. A group of inmates walked past us, all dressed in the same orange t-shirts and fishnet leggings, followed closely by two onesie wearing men, one shark and one Elmo. There was a trend among women's costumes of wearing a dress that could be worn on any night uptown, and simply adding a pair of devil's horns, some cat ears or a halo.
"For me, [Halloween] isn't so much about the costumes as it is having fun," said Anna Bellman, one of many devils roaming the streets of Oxford. "I can have just as good a time wearing whatever, and it costs way less."
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But amidst the lower-effort costumes, there were some genuinely great outfits. Cruella DeVille strode haughtily past Chipotle, lazily puffing at her cigarette holder as she drew her voluptuous fur coat around her shoulders. Wonder Bread Woman, wearing blue, yellow, red and white armor and brandishing a blade of bread, marched proudly past DuBois bookstore.
There's no prize for which university has the best costumes, and although the residents of Athens seemed to have the edge on those in Oxford, students from both schools didn't seem to mind. Devils danced, monsters mingled and poltergeists partied late into the night, marking another successful Halloween holiday for Miami and OU alike.