Several thousand people are expected to gather downtown today for the Children's Halloween Parade and a night's worth of revelry on the Plaza.

Several thousand people are expected to gather downtown today for the Children's Halloween Parade and a night's worth of revelry on the Plaza.

The parade begins at 3:30 p.m. at the Ashland library, 410 Siskiyou Blvd., and ends about an hour later at the Plaza. Officials will close East Main Street to traffic between Third and Water streets and will divert cars to Hersey Street between 2:30 and 5 p.m.

Children and families are being asked to line up on Third Street, between Lithia and East Main streets, to lead the parade, said Katharine Flanagan, marketing director for the Ashland Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the celebration.

As many as 6,000 people are expected to attend the parade, Flanagan said. Up to 2,000 typically stick around for the impromptu Plaza celebration after nightfall.

"We're very excited to bring the Halloween celebration back to Ashland this year. We carve out this time for the children — it is all about the kids," said Flanagan.

Last year, the Chamber canceled the Halloween parade at first, saying the focus was shifting away from children and some adult costumes frightened younger kids.

But the official caravan of goblins, ghouls and every other costume imaginable was reinstated to accompany an expanded child-friendly version of the celebration after numerous parents and children expressed anger and sadness over the decision.

"Last year worked out great, everyone was very respectful, so we're following the same style," Flanagan said.

The Ashland High School and Ashland Middle School bands, DanceWorks' "Thriller" group and The Jazzmen and Samba Like It Hot will be performing from side streets that intersect the parade route, Flanagan said.

Costumes must not feature nudity, profanity, lewdness, illegal drugs, violence, obscenity, racism or content offensive to another person's ethnicity, political group or religion, according to the chamber's website. Open flames also are banned, as is firing fake guns.

Photographs of the children in costume will be taken at the Ashland Art Center from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Organizers are asking those who want a picture taken to bring a canned food donation for the Ashland Emergency Food Bank.

Businesses with pumpkins in front are open to trick or treating, Flanagan said, and there will be face painting for children. Tree House Books, at 15 N. Main St., also is sponsoring a children's story time with Biscuit the Dog.

There will be no official costume contest this year, Flanagan said.

As the Halloween celebration takes a more adult turn after dark, about 30 police officers — from the Ashland, Talent, Phoenix and Medford departments — will be on patrol in Ashland, as they try to curtail illegal drug use, public intoxication, underage drinking and rowdy partying, said APD Sgt. Warren Hensman.

A team of Jackson County sheriff's deputies will be on the lookout for drivers under the influence of intoxicants, Hensman said.

Last year, police handed out 17 citations — mostly for possession of marijuana — and arrested 13 people.

In 2009, when Halloween fell on a Saturday, police arrested 29 people, largely for similar offenses. In 2008, police made 37 arrests on Halloween.

Despite Halloween falling on a Wednesday, "We always prepare for having our hands full ... and we're going to have our standard support," Hensman said.

"Ashland is a tremendous place with tremendous people, and we're looking forward to another great Halloween."

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470or email