At last year's annual Mifflin Street Block Party, many may recall the clever protest of numerous students dressed as zombies, roaming the streets with signs and outstretched arms. Their message was simple: The event had shifted from its original purpose in 1969 as a Vietnam protest and become a desensitized and meaningless drinkfest.
Although the protesters were met with mixed reviews from the crowd, few could deny the legitimacy of their claim. Mifflin has devolved into drinking for drinking's sake, and students can't claim to be free of issues to protest.
This year, as well as last, there is an eerily similar war being waged overseas that warrants contention. Student tuitions are rising quickly, and the state government is continuing to distance itself from funding this state institution. A same-sex marriage ban passed in Wisconsin despite widespread opposition from the student body. However, it is unrealistic to expect students to alter Mifflin drastically enough to make the same statement that the inaugural Mifflin Street Block Party made.
There is, however, a realistic chance at tackling issues closer to students' hearts, with the intent of gradually increasing Mifflin's political influence in years to come.
In 2007, Halloween on State Street was hijacked by city officials, commercialized and turned into the embarrassment that was Freakfest on State Street."" The once-legendary event has turned into a sponsored series of concerts requiring advance tickets, completely stripping State Street's unpredictability and charm in favor of consumerism and product-placement. If there were anything a drinkfest like the Mifflin Street Block Party could have a chance at protesting, Freakfest is it.
The protest need not be complicated. With minimal effort, students can hang strategically placed banners on some popular Mifflin Street balconies or perhaps produce a few T-shirts expressing discontent with the current state of Freakfest. Also, think of the delightful irony: Students that formerly dressed like zombies to protest drinking in excess are now protesting not being able to drink in excess while dressed as zombies on State Street. The Mifflin Street Block Party will once again return to its grassroots nature of protest, while still allowing students to engage in heavy drinking. It's win-win, especially for the zombies.
There is a caveat, however. Officials at this year's Mifflin Street Block Party are utilizing similar cameras to those implemented at Freakfest on State Street. If students can prove during the Mifflin Street Block Party that these cameras, along with crowd cooperation, will curb violence and vandalism, Freakfest may have some shot at returning to an uncharged and unsponsored event. However, any excessive crowd damages or arrests could forever deter the Mifflin Street Block Party from ever having political significance. To restore one time-honored event in Madison, students must act responsibly at another. This is not a deterrent from getting drunk, but rather knowing where law enforcement's tolerance lies.
As you enjoy Mifflin this year, take a second to remember what makes it so enjoyable. There are entertaining free bands lining the porches of local houses. There are hardly any barricades. Police only interact with the crowd for obvious crimes and occasional photo opportunities. However, Freakfest has lost this charm. There is an absurd advance ticket system, everyone is barricaded in and everyone else is barricaded out. Also, let's not forget: Lifehouse was the headlining band last year. Should I repeat that last line for effect?
If students do not want a similar fate for the Mifflin Street Block Party, they must be conscious of their drunken antics this Saturday. Also, if students show discontent for the commercialization and control that has ruined Freakfest, perhaps officials will consider allowing State Street Halloweens to adopt at least some of the freedoms granted on Mifflin. Students may not be able to emulate the same political messages of the first Mifflin Street Block Party, but they can at least make a start, while still enjoying the drunken revelry that makes Mifflin special.
Jon Spike is a sophomore majoring in English education. Please send responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.