Monday, May 2, 2011

It's Time To End the Mifflin Beer Blast

There will be howls and protestations from the younger set, but it’s time to put this disgusting display of drunken excess to bed. Two stabbings – one college kid stabbed in the butt, so drunk he didn’t even know it – and three cops hurt; a sea of urine and vomit; and the only reason for the annual party is that, well, that it’s an annual party.

This year’s over-the-top iteration had one of the original 1969 Mifflin Street Block Party attendees…no, not me, but the one who happens to be Mayor again….telling the media at the event he was praying for rain to wash out the party, and telling the public prints Monday morning that it’s time to put it to bed.


The photo above was taken at the Mifflin Beer Blast in 2005. Far left is Madison Police Officer Lund; my son, Dru, is next to him, swilling a cup of some no-doubt evil brew; Dru’s best friend Chaise is kneeling in the foreground of the photo; next is Madison Police Officer Scheller, standing next to Officer Scheller is my daughter Mallory and next to her, at the right of the photo, is her BFF Brianna. I have no idea how the cops summon the patience to put up with what has become an early-party ritual of having their photos taken with the revelers.

In my on-air days, I referred to the event as the “Mifflin Street Beer Bash”, which drew chuckles from the alder representing the district, Mike Verveer, but I read in the State Journal this morning that even Verveer, longtime vocal support of the blast, has said it’s time to put it to bed.

The Beer Blast has had its ups and downs in recent years, but the gendarmerie says this year’s was the drunkest ever, and I have no reason to doubt them. A few years back some UW football player beat the crap out of somebody; the year the photo above was taken, 2005, was a fairly calm year. In 1996, it was cold; the drunks started fires in the street to stay warm; it turned into a riot (and yes, it was a riot) when firefighters came to put out the fires. The next year was tame, because strict controls were established, controls which were gradually relaxed.

There’s always been a troubled relationship between alcohol and the UW. Badger football game-day has always meant drunken revelry; the Halloween beer blast on State Street at least was centered on an “event”…Halloween…but it got so rowdy then-Mayor Cieslewicz said “shut it down” about five years ago, and then agreed to turn it into a gated and controlled event called “FreakFest”, which tamed things down considerably.

There will be angry rants in the coming days from the younger set about “the fun police” shutting down “their celebration”, as Mayor Soglin makes moves to either control the beer blast or shut it down, but the anger of the young will fall on deaf ears at City Hall. It’s an event that’s morphed into an ugly beast again, which the UW Student Association has repeatedly refused to take responsibility for or control of, and it’s time for this dinosaur to lurch into the grave or be put into captivity for its own good.


  1. Hmmmm.

    The mess in a parking lot on WEST Johnson street was noticeable on Sunday morning, too.

    Now I know why.

  2. I'm not howling, Tim, just rolling my eyes. You want to end the Mifflin Street Block Party? Nothing short of a complete ban on booze in downtown Madison will do that. If the young folks all want to get day-drunk to celebrate the onset of spring, they'll do it.

    I hearken back to 2005, when the city made plans for the party to happen the first weekend in May. But there's no one person that plans the block party, and the hive mind that's in charge said, "Hey, this isn't the weekend we want to have it this year. We want it the weekend before the weekend before finals." Mayor C tried to force the issue, saying the police had already been scheduled, but the police don't make the party. Neither do the politicians or the commentators. It's the people that show up that make the party, and they said, "No matter what you do, we're showing up the last weekend in April." And the city had to concede.

    So your other option is to crack down hard on the Mifflin area. Also a terrible idea, because then instead of having 20,000 drunks confined to one easily-policeable street, you'll have 20,000 drunks spread out, unsupervised, all across the downtown.

    Sorry, but "shuttin' her down" just isn't as simple as observers wish it was.

  3. Thanks for stopping by, Dusty. It's over. It's not going to be simple to end it; nevertheless, it's over. It's going to end up as a "Freakfest" clone, sans gates, and sans a lot of the beer and booze.

  4. Dusty, I'm afraid there were thousands of unsupervised, quite loud, boorish, and disrespectful drunks all over downtown anyway this year, all thanks to the Mifflin Street Beer Bash.

    Take a look at Dad29's comments about the trash one West Johnson. The blog that sent me here also has comments regarding the unprecedented number of drunk kids downtown and the trouble they caused, and the authors of other local blogs have written the same in their posts.

    I love Madison, and with UW football, FreakFest, and the ample supply of artisan breweries around town, a little inebriation of the population is to be expected here. But last Saturday wasn't fun, it was an assault on the city of Madison. Ask the two guys stabbed, the police who were attacked, or anyone who was sober and who wasn't part of that crowd but who found themselves downtown last Saturday if it was fun.

    I was ashamed, and quite frankly, very shocked to see such a brazen display of excessive drinking....and I didn't go anywhere near Mifflin Street Saturday, they came to me. Drunk. Insanely drunk. Unsupervised. Unruly. Screaming. Shouting. Throwing empty beer cans. Well beyond the boundaries of Mifflin Street.

    What city, university, it's residents or its workers can be proud of that?

    I say gate the festival, make the exit 50 feet long and if they can't walk a straight line out of there they have no reason being on the streets or in a car.