spankThere was a lot of stories about kids and candy this past weekend. That’s certainly what one might expect on Halloween, but there were plenty of parties going on for the big kids too and Downtown Kingsport had the biggest yet!

Granted – the weather was miserable. It rained almost all night, but that didn’t stop hundreds of people from attending Kingsport’s first Halloween Costume Pub Crawl.

Saturday night, GoTriCities and participating downtown venues hosted the event along with The Kingsport Chamber of Commerce and Action Rental. Besides the soaking rain, the creepy, yet delightfully cool crowds on Main Street were much larger than we expected.

It was cloudy Halloween morning and I was watching the radar intently throughout the day.

Like many others, I was one those last-minute shoppers in line at Halloween Express in Johnson City. Formerly Bennigan’s Restaurant, this vacant building serves as ground-zero for costumes, masks and ghoulish paraphernalia this time of year and the parking lot was full.

After deliberating over several options, I decided on the “Minister of Death.” Besides, it gave me a reason to wear makeup.

As I drove into Kingsport around 5.00, the streets were divided with orange cones carving the streets for runners. The police department were on hand in the gray weather keeping safe watch for athletes who were running in the inaugural Haunted Half Marathon.

The organizers of this event did an outstanding job in their first year with reports of over 400 runners participating in this year’s race. Around 3.00pm, these participants lined up in front of The Bonefire Restaurant on Main Street and followed a meandering downtown course which totaled 13.1 miles. ( Click here for photos )

The streets cleared quickly after the race and I turned my attention to the rib sandwich at The Bus Pit. That’s one of my favorite places to eat among downtown eateries and it was warm and cozy inside with the John Patton Band playing acoustic music in front of the restaurant.

Doug Beatty, one of the organizers of this day of Halloween happenings was having dinner with his family and he was happy to describe some of the events of the day.

“Other than a few sprinkles, the Haunted Half was great” said Beaty. “I was looking at the radar on my phone and right when the race started the clouds cleared up and when it was over the rain rolled back in.”

We were both hoping the rain would clear before the pub crawl, but it never did. Instead, with the Kingsport Train Station as a backdrop, it was a cold, dreary shower that keep the streets wet all night.

Dinner was great (as usual) and I made my way back to our office on Main Street to prepare arm-loads of camera gear. were planning on taking plenty of pictures and shooting live video – but first the costume.

Jared Bentley called me while I was staring in the office mirror.

“What’s up?” he bolted as soon as I picked up the phone.

“I’m putting on my base makeup – don’t ask.”

After all the getup was in place, we finally got all of our gear together and made our way back down to The Bus Pit. Although there were going to be live bands at The Kingsport Grocery, Stir Fry and Kaffe Blue, we wanted a live camera here at this venue because Spank was performing.

Spank is a popular dance band that specializes in an entertaining stage show, complete with lighting and deep set list of popular 80’s music.

After we got our cameras setup, we moved down the street to Kingsport Grocery Company which already had a crowd downstairs with costumed guests all over the restaurant.

A guy dressed in a Beetlejuice costume darted by me on the way out to smoke outside and I couldn’t help but mention his name three times as he passed by. There were all kinds of costumes – some comical and others creepy that included vampires, wrestlers, pimps, zombies, Fred Flintstone, Slash from Guns and Roses, hippies, devils, angels and tooth fairies all around.

Upstairs, the second floor was crowded too as the Annie Robinette Band was tuning their instruments.

Annie is from Bristol and a popular songwriter on the local circuit. She was in the spirit tonight too dressed in a renaissance pirate costume and sounded the best I’ve heard her in a long while. Her busy summer schedule has certainly refined the band’s mix of distinctive songs and covers that kindled the mood for the rest of the night.

Johnny Rasar plays bass for the band and I had to ask him about his guitar which had a Frankenstein mug worked into the finish.

We both agreed every musician should have a Halloween instrument for just the right night and tonight was indeed – one of those special occasions.

We set up our cameras and everyone was extremely patient with us as we turned on the strobe lights and began to broadcast live on the Internet. This was one of our early experiments with live broadcasts and although the online audience was small, we enjoyed opening up the lens and this event to people all over the country from our hometown Halloween party.

There was a steady stream of costumed party-goers for the rest of the night, but we wanted to move back down the street to The Bus Pit after Annie’s first set. It was still raining, but within a few moments, we were across the street and working our way through a line of people already gathered in hallway of this terrific downtown venue.

The Bus Pit was opened in the summer of this past year to coincide with the Twilight Alive concert series and although it’s had a rocky start, the room still has plenty of potential of becoming a great Kingsport nightclub.

It used to be the old maintenance garage where city and county buses were once repaired. One of its signature features is an authentic city bus parked just inside the front door that serves as the bar and centerpiece of this locale.

The stage in front was decorated with cob webs, Halloween streamers and creatures and Spank’s gear made the place look like a real concert venue.

Hailing from Bristol, Spank is probably the region’s most popular band. They don’t pretend to be anything other than an 80’s dance band and they carry with them one of the largest light shows of anyone in the area – complete with a glaring 15 foot truss spelling out the word “Spank” directly behind them.

Spank includes Tom Mann who fronts the band on vocals and guitar, Pete Dixon on guitar, Collin McHenry on bass and Ironman John Grayson on drums. Tonight, they were dressed with geeky musicians with horn-rimmed glasses.

Once they struck their first notes they never slowed down the rest of the night. Their usual entertaining stage show invite fans on the stage to get “spanked” with a blue and green sticker which people wear on their bums as a badge of honor.

The Bus Pit had more people tonight than we have seen before and everyone seemed to enjoy the drink specials from the “bar-bus.” When the band took a break, the Halloween contest featured some of the best outfits from the night.

First place winner for the women included a renaissance winch who created her costume from scratch and my favorite for the men – a costumed Steve Grindstaff who yelled into the mike, “Who makes a deal like Grindstaff?” Of which the crowd responded – NOBODY!

The rain made it hard for people to actually participate in a “Pub Crawl.” Stir Frye had “Scaryoke” and Kaffe Blue was open with the “Ghosts in The Woods Band.” I’m not sure how many people crossed over to Broad Street, but the ghouls and cartoons on Main Street were back and forth all night from The KGC to The Bus Pit.

Around midnight, both locations had sold out of the glowing green arm bands which permitted entrance into all venues but the crowds kept coming as the night-owls made their rounds.

Later, we found ourselves back at the Kingsport Grocery for the late-night deejay and talked to two young ladies who were in town from Wise, VA. They were having a great time on the dance floor and we had time for one more live broadcast before shutting down for the night.

This year’s Halloween Pub Crawl was a roaring success and I’m certain everyone had a great night to remember. Event planners are already talking about the next party, so stay tuned for more to come.

Downtown Kingsport is still struggling to become a top-of-mind destination for the weekend, but there’s no doubt that we have some great venues and superb entertainment on a regular basis. Unfortunately, that’s kind of spotty and we hope to work together with these merchants and share ideas to bring more great events into the heart of the city.

So if you missed this years event, you missed quite the spectacle.

There are plenty of photographs online this year as our photographers at GoTriCities captured more than 300 photos. Check those out at great Halloween photos from this year’s event and make sure you keep Downtown Kingsport on your radar for a great nightlife still in the works.