The city of Boulder is taking on the tradition of running naked while wearing nothing but a pumpkin upon the head, a.k.a. the “Naked Pumpkin Run”:

The event is exactly what its name implies. Scores of men and women pour into downtown streets for a late-night jog, wearing not a stitch between the jack-o’-lanterns on their heads and the sneakers on their feet.

For nearly a decade, naked pumpkin runners did their thing unmolested, stampeding through the frigid dark past crowds of admirers who hooted, hollered and tossed candy. But last year the run attracted more than 150 participants, and Police Chief Mark Beckner fears things are getting out of hand. “It’s a free-for-all,” he says.

So, the police are cracking down. The move offers interesting questions about time, place and manner restrictions of freedom of expression.

It’s not illegal to be naked in downtown Boulder. In fact, the city has had a long, proud history of nudity.Hundreds of University of Colorado students dashed across campus in the buff in 1974, in a vain attempt to set a Guinness World Record.

More recently, Boulder has played host to an annual Naked Bike Ride to protest dependence on fossil fuels. And the Boulder Daily Camera, the local newspaper, serves up a steady stream of stories about clothes-free joggers and nudist gardeners.

Casting about for a law to apply, since nudity per se is not illegal, police hit upon the state’s indecent exposure statute, which makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor for anyone to knowingly expose his or her genitals in circumstances “likely to cause affront or alarm.”

Given that the Naked Pumpkin Run starts at 11 p.m., long after young trick-or-treaters have retired, and given that the route is packed with fans who come out specifically to see the event, runners argue that it’s absurd to think their prank is causing either affront or alarm.

Even if the run does catch a few people by surprise, “the joy it brings overall far outweighs the one or two people who could be offended,” says Callie Webster, who is 22 and a veteran pumpkinhead.

Police acknowledge they have not been flooded with pumpkin-run-related complaints, but say that’s beside the point. A throng of naked people with jack-o-lanterns on their heads is, by definition, an alarming sight, Chief Beckner says. Therefore, it’s illegal.

According to this report, the Naked Pumpkin Run was officially squashed.

A shame? Or not?