With Ohio University’s annual fest season kicking off this weekend, the abundance of visitors on campus and the traditional nature of these fests are met with a police force on high alert.
Friday will kick off the season with Milliron Fest, followed by Mill Fest on Saturday.
During the months of March and April, students celebrate a total of five different block parties, including High Fest (Mar. 21) and Palmer Place Fest and Palmer Fest (Mar. 27 and 28 respectively). Indie Fest in Albany, Ohio, which Juicy J is headlining, will also be on Mar. 28. The students and visitors then cap off the season with the #Fest, a large, all-day music festival, which will be held on April 18 this year.
“We do increase our staff during these events and work cooperatively with area law enforcement to best ensure the safety of the community,” said Lt. Tim Ryan of the Ohio University Police Department.
Though not able to disclose any detailed information, Ryan says that the department will operate in the same fashion that it did during the 2014 season and has not made any major changes.
The school hasn’t seen any large-scale disturbances in recent years that have compared to the Palmer Fest riot of 2009, where Ohio University students participating in the fest set fire to a couch in the middle of Palmer Street.
NBC 4 News reported from an Athens city police report that during the two attempts to smother the fire, police and fire department forces were struck with full cans of beer, as well as glass bottles, requiring them to dress in full riot gear. The report recorded that five horses being used to patrol the situation were injured and required veterinary care.
Though there have been no recent newsworthy outbursts during this season, the number of arrest remains high. According to The Athens News, the Athens Police Department and the Ohio Investigative Unit made a total of 48 arrests last year on the day of Mill Fest alone.
The majority of these arrests were offenses linked to alcohol. These alcohol-related charges often tend to be the consequence of students underage drinking.
“My friends and I were sitting and drinking in a circle on the outskirts at the beginning of the fest,” said one OU senior, who wishes to remain anonymous and was arrested at the #Fest his sophomore year. “Three under covers approached us because we looked young and they arrested us once they saw that we were under age.”
This student warns that just because you aren’t being unruly or drawing attention to yourself, doesn’t mean you won’t get caught.
The OUPD stresses that students not only be mindful of their own behavior, but also be aware of what is going on around them.
“We encourage everyone to keep crime prevention in mind and to report suspicious activity to the police immediately,” said Ryan.
When approaching this highly anticipated season, students are reminded by the Ohio University Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones’ motto, “Be Smart. Be Civil. Be Safe.”