American Horror Photo Story

The 2016 Election Takes Over the West Hollywood Carnaval

Every year, thousands of partygoers head out to West Hollywood for the Halloween Carnaval to participate in what has been called the world’s biggest Halloween party.

The range in creativity of people’s costumes is one of the elements that make this event an annual attraction. Everything from drag queens, to pop culture references, to political messages can be found roaming Santa Monica Boulevard, as well as the traditional store bought rubber masks.

This year being an election year like no other, it was costumes with political messages that dominated the parade. Many took clear sides on who they supported as a candidate as well as who they opposed.  Gary Longaberger from Santa Barbara dressed up in what he called “Trump’s Tenth Victim of Molestation,” where he was dressed as a woman with a Trump character on his back touching him inappropriately, in reference to the many women accusing Trump of sexual harassment. Longaberger said, “It was a political statement on what’s been going on. It’s fun to have something like this that’s creative, poignant, and gives a political message along with having a great reaction from people.”

While the majority of costumes took on the task of demonizing Donald Trump or championing Hillary Clinton, a Trump supporter could still be found in the crowd.  Joey Meyer from La Quinta took the form of a zombie for the night while walking the boulevard with a sign saying “Make America Weird Again -- Vote Zombie 4 President,” expressing the idea that many voters are dead in the head and out of touch with what the country needs.  

Patrick Castillo, from Studio City, dresses up as Donald Trump during the Halloween Carnaval in West Hollywood, Calif. on Monday, October 31, 2016.  Castillo said, "To me he's a comedian. Don't take him serious, he just wants the vote from the people." Photo By: Jose Lopez

John Wadas, from West Hollywood, is dressed up as Captain America along with his dog Coco who is dressed up as Wonder Woman during the Halloween Carnaval in West Hollywood, Calif. on Monday, October 31, 2016. When asked about his thoughts on the upcoming election Wadas said, "I try not to think about because it's quite frustrating." Photo by: Jose Lopez

Aaron Sanders and Jen Friesen who are with Hollywood for Hillary dress up for the Halloween Carnaval while sharing their political message along Santa Monica Blvd. Photo by: Jose Lopez

When asked for his thoughts on this year’s election, Meyer said, “It’s pretty ugly this year compared to past years. I guess if I had to vote I’d vote for Trump…I think he is going to make change. Hillary has been in there for 30 years and has done absolutely nothing but talk.”

Halloween Carnaval is a space where people feel free to exhibit their politics, however it is also a space where people simply come out to let loose and celebrate the dark mysterious nature of the holiday in playful ways.  It is an excuse to become creative with costumes and personalities other than our own.

Branimir Kvartuc, who dressed up as the viral debate attendee and undecided voter Ken Bone, shared his thoughts on the election. “It’s already over, so Hilary is gonna be the next president,” he said.  

He also went beyond the political nature of his costume to share how his choice is attuned to his interest in popular culture.  Kvartuc said, “I usually try to do a pop culture reference that’s appropriate for that time. Last year I was Doc Brown with my brother. He was Marty because it was 2015, right? This year I wanted to be a pop culture reference, so Ken Bone was the way to go for me.”

West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval is a seasonal festive space where exotic costumes representing the culture of the Victorian era can be seen along side popular culture characters such as Homer Simpson as they take a selfie together.

Kvartuc, who has been attending for the last five years, said, “What is really consistent is the creativity of people with their costumes. That’s what you come out to see. This is the way to enjoy Halloween as an adult.”

In the end, people go to the carnaval to party in the spirit of Halloween before anything and politics is simply another layer of the personality for this massive party. This year just happens to coincide with the most polarized election of our lifetime, where the characters up for election in effect served as the honorary mascots for the 29th Annual West Hollywood Carnaval.


Wanda Jackson dressed as Hillary Clinton (left) share a moment with Isabel Nelson (right) who is dressed as a Bernie Sanders’ supporter who turned into a Clinton supporter during the West Hollywood Halloween Carnival in West Hollywood, Calif on Monday, October 31. Photo by: Rosangelica Vizcarra

Gary Longaberger, from Santa Barbara, dresses up as what he calls “Trumps 10th Victim of Molestation” with Trump inappropriately touching him during the Halloween Carnaval in West Hollywood, Calif. on Monday, October 31, 2016.  Referencing his past costumes Longaberger said, “I’m an equal opportunity costume maker. I go back so far that I had a costume of Bill Clinton. I’m dressed as Bill Clinton and then I had Monica Lewinsky strapped to my waist.” Photo by: Jose Lopez

Branimir Kvartuc dressed up as the politicized character Ken Bone takes a photograph with Dennis Miller who is dressed up as Hillary Clinton during the Halloween Carnaval in West Hollywood, Calif. on Monday, October 31, 2016. When asked about the upcoming election Kvartuc confidently said, “Its already over, so Hilary is gonna be the next president. The real thing about the election is whether people are gonna vote on measure M and whether people are gonna vote for HHH." Photo by: Jose Lopez

Kelly Coate, from Columbus, Ohio, dresses up as Donald Trump with tiny hands during the Halloween Carnaval in West Hollywood, Calif. on Saturday, October 31, 2016. Taking a hard stance on the candidates Coate said, “Definitely don’t vote for trump, vote for Hillary.” Photo by: Jose Lopez