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Citations down for changed Mifflin Street Block Party

Published On: May 04 2013 07:51:23 PM CDT   Updated On: May 05 2013 01:22:42 AM CDT
Mifflin Street 2012
MADISON, Wis. -

The Mifflin Street Block Party: A Madison tradition with a history spanning more than 40 years.

A tradition that now is in danger.

The event began in 1969 as a street protest which turned violent. Current Madison Mayor Paul Soglin was one of many arrested that year.

Then the annual event turned into a peaceful political and social statement, but degenerated into little more than a drinking party in the 90s.

Just last year, hundreds were arrested and the party cost taxpayers an estimated $196,000 in police costs.

Madison police now feel that – after a near-fatal stabbing, sexual assaults, and extreme intoxication at past events – its push for self-policing on Mifflin Street in the days leading up to the party may have paid off.

Madison police reported there were no significant incidents on Mifflin Street Saturday.

Police said crowd numbers were down dramatically from past years.

"The MPD worked hard to educate people, prior to the event, about the department's concerns and expectations," said Joel DeSpain in a statement.

DeSpain said the vast majority of attendees obeyed laws and ordinances. He said the number of citations are down at least several hundred from last year, when 545 citations were issued. An exact number of citations is expected next week.

Madison police thanked the Dane County Sheriff's Department for assisting in Saturday's patrols.

But some weren't quite so quick to let go of the Mifflin Street party.

"There's no way anyone is going to skip out on this tradition," said Nathan Radke from Milwaukee, one of many who traveled from out of town.

"Why break the tradition? I mean, if you can patrol it like this, I don't think anything bad is going to happen," continued Radke.

Indeed, this year’s event proved that no matter how many badges you throw at the street, someone will still throw the party.

And nothing bad did happen.

With far fewer beer-guzzling partygoers on Mifflin this year, citations were down by hundreds.

Officers were sent home mid-shift, and no significant arrests were reported.

Drastic changes after the city denounced the event for being dangerous and expensive.

"If this is going to be the new Mifflin, certainly we will not need the numbers of officers that we've had on the streets in the last many years," said MPD spokesperson Joel Despain.

Union South looked surprisingly similar, with heavy police patrol -- not on a street, but around a stage.

Partygoers like Kyle Rak were fine paying $5 to get into "Revelry," a new UW-sponsored music fest, but, as he said, "the cost for a beer is $6, and that's a little steep for students."

The organizers of "Revelry" said it wasn't supposed to be a substitute for the Mifflin Street Block Party.

"Our standpoint the whole time has never been anti-Mifflin or alternative to Mifflin," said "Revelry" marketing director Josh Lieberthal. "We think they complement each other very well."

But organizers are honest enough to say that they see their event as the new spring headliner for students, especially considering Mifflin's track record.

But next to foam dance parties and face paint, even some "Revelry" attendees admitted that they missed Mifflin, a sign the mainstay may not go so quietly.

"Even if they say it's going to be called off, I mean, look at it," said Radke. "There's no reason not to come.

UW Police had no arrests, citations, or incidents at Union South today, and just one person sent to Detox.

More than 3,000 people came out for "Revelry"'s inaugural event.

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