St. Thomas students planning on attending Wisconsin-Madison’s Mifflin Block Party will face a “no tolerance” policy from authorities who canceled the event and said they intend to prevent it from ever taking place again.
The event has been a Wisconsin-Madison spring tradition since 1969, and it is a large block party held on Mifflin Street that anyone can attend. However, according to the resident information letter from the Madison Police Department, local law enforcement and university officials have decided to crack down on the event due to widespread public safety issues.
“The city of Madison, UW Madison, area landlords, and downtown residents have all determined that the toll of the spring student party far outweighs any benefit to our community,” the letter stated. “The nuisance house parties on Mifflin Street, with the rampant over-consumption of alcohol and attendant safety issues will no longer be tolerated by the City of Madison.”
According to the City of Madison’s news release, police dealt with stabbings, sexual and physical assaults, thefts, robberies and drug deals during the 2011 block party.
Junior Kevin Gawronski has attended the event twice, but said the decision to cancel was a “safe call” because of the stabbings and other safety issues.
“It was really wild. There was a lot of underage drinking, and it’s pretty chaotic. It was a very dangerous situation, and I could see it repeating itself,” Gawronski said. “I had a good time, but there were a lot of safety precautions.”
Sophomore Breana Wetzel said she won’t be making the trip to Madison for safety reasons.
“I decided not to go to Mifflin this year because there’s a higher chance of getting in trouble with authorities,” Wetzel said. “Also the amount of violence and theft the past few years makes it less appealing to me.”
According to the Madison Police Department, the city will be operating under a no-tolerance policy in reference to illegal house parties, noise issues and underage drinking.
Hosts of parties determined to be “nuisance parties” because of alcohol, noise, or safety issues will be charged $500 each. The letter stated that these parties would also be shut down and each guest would have to pay a $300 fine.
Madison police also intend to dish out fines ranging from $177 to around $300 without warning for drinking without permission on private property, underage drinking, providing alcohol to people underage, “open bottle” and public urination.
The biggest fine students could face is for “dispensing alcohol.” The resident letter stated that “any exchange of money constitutes dispensing alcohol” and that each roommate will pay a $681 fine.
Even though the police have warned students about the event and said “nuisance parties” in other parts of the city on and around May 4 will be shut down, some Mifflin-goers aren’t ready to let go of their annual block party that easily.
Senior Courtney Hanousek has attended Mifflin the past three years and is still planning on going this year.
“I texted my friend a couple of weeks ago and she said that even though the city canceled it, the students are still going to make it happen,” Hanousek said.
Gawronski said Madison officials may be trying to prove a point with the cancellation, but isn’t sure that they will see an end to the partying.
“I think students are going to react by forming a new type of party … there’s no way to stop it,” Gawronski said. “I think they’re trying to prove a point. I think they’re trying to prove that … the whole situation is still under control.”
Senior Brad Foster has also attended Mifflin, but is also not planning to travel to Madison this year.
“My good friend doesn’t go there anymore so that’s one of the reasons,” Foster said. “I’ve also heard that they are kind of cracking down a lot more this year.”
Sergeant Paul Paulos, who works for the St. Paul Police Department, said one can never predict what’s going to happen at a big event.
“Whether it’s the Taste of Minnesota or whether it’s Cinco de Mayo, you go with the anticipation of having fun and enjoying the event,” Paulos said. “It’s unbeknownst to the goers whether or not those one, two or 10 people decide to disrupt the event.”
Some Wisconsin-Madison students organized an outdoor music and arts festival for students on Saturday, May 4, called Revelry. According to its website, Revelry organizers aspire to create a safe banner event for UW-Madison that is for students and led by students, and want it to be known as their big, end of the school year concert.
“It sounds like it would be a lot of fun to go to, especially since it’s outside,” Hanousek said. “It sounds a lot like Spring Jam to me.”
Paulos said the best way for students to remain safe at big events like these is to attend them with a friend or a partner.
“Stay sober and be aware of your surroundings,” Paulos said. “Don’t get so wrapped up in the music that you don’t know the person behind you.”
Despite some students’ attempt to replace the 44-year Madison custom with Revelry, Gawronski said he’s sad to see the old tradition go.
“I think it’s reasonable they’re doing it, but I also think it’s sad to see this tradition come to an end like it is,” Gawronski said.
Anne Becken contributed to this report.
Heidi Enninga can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.