Monday, May 12, 2008

Annual Street Party Tamer Than Years Past

Natalie Jovonovich

It happens every spring at Ohio University. Students spend many of their weekends 'festing,' a term coined and universally recognized for over a decade. Athens Police Captain Tom Pyle says it all goes back to a university-sponsored event that began in 1989. Spring Fest was held on the intramural fields at the end of Mill Street until 1993, when Pyle says the university passed a policy to stop serving alcohol. "When they prohibited that, participation really dwindled and these private street parties began popping up." While the police don't call it by its usual name, Palmer Fest is usually the biggest of the private street parties that Pyle says were the students' replacement for Spring Fest.

Athens Police Captain Tom Pyle gives the history of these spring street festivals.

"It's Pretty Amazing"

Many students said they prefer this day over any other. Junior Kate Bradesca says she doesn't like all of the visitors that come for Halloween and that she feels its overrated: "I'm literally seeing everybody I've ever known at OU." Even though there aren't as many visitors, that doesn't mean they still don't come. Lee Hagedorn goes to Indiana University and says his friend encouraged him to come. He says while IU does have party weekends, they don't quite measure up to this: "There's never been everything on one street, it's pretty amazing." Many party-goers expressed surprise and concern that the street remained open to traffic. One sophomore said she wished the street were closed so she didn't have to worry about her dog. Pyle says police never close the street to the public, but instead monitor the crowds and clear the road if necessary.

"Big Expectations"

Residents of Palmer Street say this day comes with the territory. "One of the things about living on Palmer is that for Palmer Fest, we have big expectations to live up to," resident Christie Succop said. Succop says for safety reasons, her roommates monitored who was at the party and did not let people into the house. But because of the nice weather, students and alumni came ready to have a good time. "This place is like home. The whole entire experience...there's nothing better in the whole world than this, right now. I'm 23 and I'm living the dream!" Alumnus Matt Naby currently lives in North Carolina, and said he came for one reason: "This place is like home. It's amazing." First time attendees said they couldn't believe the crowds, and some compared it to Halloween. "I heard it's better than Halloween, so I expected it to be pretty good," freshman Keeley Dronberger said. Another freshman, Katelyn O'Donnell, said, "Everyone talks about Palmer Fest, although I don't think it's bigger than Halloween."

"Everybody knows what's expected"

Litter Patrol Officer Mike Gosnell says he handles this weekend the same as any other. "I will drive around, I will patrol, and will give a citation if it isn't resolved in a timely manner." Gosnell says while he does see a lot of trash, "Everybody knows what's expected of them." A common misconception is that fines are increased because of the weekend, but Gosnell says that is not the case. He relies on the city database for the number of offenses a house may previously have and says that is what the amount of the fine depends on. A first offense is $20, and increases in $20 increments up to $100. Gosnell says Code Enforcement will allow 24 hours for cleanup from the first citation and that usually is enough time: "It's pretty rare that I come back the following day and it's still not cleaned up."

Gosnell talks about his duties the day after street parties.

Pyle says the event is handled just like any other: "We do our thing, 24/7, 365, it never changes." Athens Police are faced with the same issues every year, like street congestion and liquor violations, but Pyle says it all depends on the residents policing themselves. "I've answered several e-mails this week and telephone calls about everything from noise violations to beer to can I fence my house or yard off, that kind of thing." Overall, Pyle's only advice was for people to stay safe and have fun. And with police reporting just 13 arrests and no major incidents, it seemed that people took that advice to heart.

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