Sure, everyone at Bloomsburg University has heard about Block Party, it has even gained national attention on some occasions but it may be a blur to some as to why we celebrate it in the first place.
Bloomsburg University Andrus Library Archives had much to say about the beginning of Block Party and the evolution it took to present day.
Block Party started in 1993 as a nonprofit party hosted by Theta Chi fraternity on Sesame Street to benefit the Bloomsburg Women’s Center and their cause.
According to a front page article published by TheVoice in April 15, 1993, Barney Harris, Theta Chi president stressed that all the money profited after the cost of the bash was to go directly to the Women’s Center.
Brothers asked for donations throughout the afternoon the day of Block Party. Brothers also worked several days before Block Party asking downtown businesses for donations in exchange for free advertisement on a banner that was hung at Block Party.
There was no entry fee to the party and it was strictly bring your own beer. However, alternative drinks, food and T-shirts were sold.
Entertainment was provided throughout the day by local band Coyote Ugly, a progressive rock band Another Pretty Face, and a Theta Chi brother and co-chairman of Block Party, Ethan Rightmeyer, performed.
A representative from the Woman’s Center was at hand to distribute literature and answer any questions anyone had during Block Party.
Theta Chi expected 1500 to 2000 people to attend. Police supported the event and the cause.
The brothers of Theta Chi wanted everyone leaving Block Party knowing more about the Woman’s Center and its cause.
Block Party has since been seen in a less positive light. In the last three decades, the crowds of people participating in Block Party have raised concerns for safety.
One Chi Sigma Rho alumn recalls on facebook recently, “When I was last there they lit furniture on fire in a dumpster then started tossing beer bottles like 50 feet in the air repeatedly to where someone got injured from getting hit by one” Vivky Picard said,” Then a bunch of people started throwing pot bowls at the cop cars as they patrolled through the crowd.I was saftely observing over a can of Natty Ice from a porch roof.”
A college student from Bucks Community College visited to celebrate Block Party in 2013 and he recalls,“I was drinking on Fetterman Avenue and a firkin BearCat comes out of nowhere! And the police started releasing tear gas at us!, “Dillon Stein said, “the party was never out of hand until they showed up. Then we started throwing beer bottles at the police cars. They brought it on themselves”
Bloomsburg town council have been actively working with police and students of Bloomsburg University in hopes of finding a solution to the problems caused by Block Party.
Cops in the past have felt outnumbered as social media has increased crowds from hundreds to thousands.
Last year’s Assistant Vice President for External Relations at Bloomsburg University, Jim Hollister, made a chilling speech to assembled students expressing his concern for safety during Block Party and also suggested his willingness to work with students on a solution.
“We care about you” Hollister tells students, “So, damn it, let’s get together and come up with a solution”.
Since then, no new ordnances have been passed but alternatives have been suggested.
According to BUNOW, Council man Fred Trump, suggested holding Block Party at an upper campus venue. He made a clear connection to the liquor license needed for football tailgating on upper campus and hoped for an exception to be made for Block Party.
Hollister opposed stating, “You can’t just simply throw it up there on a bunch of athletic fields and say it’s gonna be a big party” Hollister points out, “It’s simply not legal.”
Council’s Bower preferred that the largest bashes be held on upper campus, fair grounds, or somewhere outside of town.
Police suggested to anyone celebrating Block Party, that the hosts of parties only invite people that they know. If the party gets out of hand, call the police. You will not get in trouble. Police consider calling for help the responsible thing to do and is respected by enforcement. Also, tell neighbors ahead of time out of respect for the people around you.
Springfest is a healthy, fun and safe free event held on upper campus that is offered by Bloomsburg University’s Center for leadership and Engagement as an alternative option to the end of the year Block Party celebration.
Chairman of Springfest, George Kinzel, started Spring fest in 2011 by assessing students of Bloomsburg University by asking them what they wanted to do the weekend of Block Party instead of participating in the down town booze bash. His intentions are to provide a healthy and positive alternative to Block Party. He also wanted to hold an event that shines a positive impression on the town and improve the town’s relations with the university because Block Party cojoures up negitive attention and promblems that lead to town and university tension each year.
Springfest is a, “Mini Bloomsburg fair” according to George Kinzel. The event starts at 6p.m. Friday night on the Lycom lawn with a Freedom Carnival where there will be a viewing of the most recent Star Wars movie at the amp theatre, an ice cream bar, taco truck, cotton candy and much more.
It continues the next morning at Nelson’s field with the rock wall open to all and is run by QUEST, one of Springfest sponsors. Registration will be open for free T-shirts and wrists bands. Some of the activities for that day include inflatables, sports, Zumba lessons, balloon artist, and the event is wrapped up with bingo.
The first year that spring fest was launched, 333 people attended. According to George Kinzel, 1,451 people attended last year. This year, an estimated 1,500 people will attend, “if the weather holds” George says.
This event is made possible by the hundreds of volunteers and several sponsors supporting this event. Volunteers sign up through Husky Sync and all volunteers receive a free T-shirt. Some sponsors include the Recreational Center, WQBUQ, and DAWN.
This years, ‘Merica’ theme for Springfest was voted on by Bloomsburg University students. With the presidential election right around the corner, this theme seems very appropriate.
Spring fest attracts Bloomsburg University alumni, as well as students and members of the community. The free event is family friendly where anyone is welcome.