Soglin, city leaders want Mifflin block party ended

2011-05-02T11:15:00Z 2011-08-25T11:15:22Z Soglin, city leaders want Mifflin block party endedSAMARA KALK DERBY | skalk@madison.com | 608-252-6439 madison.com

City leaders are interested in ending the Mifflin Street block party once and for all after a huge crowd turned out for the 42nd annual party Saturday that culminated in two people being stabbed and three police officers getting injured.

"All I'm interested in is ending this thing," Mayor Paul Soglin said Sunday, adding that he didn't find out about new plans that allowed partygoers to drink beer in the street until after he took office.

Suspending the open container law and allowing beer drinking in the street was against his better judgment and Police Chief Noble Wray's recommendation, Soglin said. Organizers "were convinced it would work so I gave them a chance. I'm probably more angry with myself than anybody else," Soglin said.

The combination of 70-degree weather, the hype over drinking in the street, and the Crazylegs run helped draw huge crowds, said Ald. Mike Verveer, 4th District, who agrees the time has come to end the party.

"In a perfect world I sure hope it's the last one," he said. "I have long thought that there's no real redeeming value in this annual event and I wish it would go away."

The 21-year old UW-Madison student who suffered life-threatening injuries after being stabbed multiple times on the 500 block of West Mifflin Street about 5:15 p.m. had a successful surgery and will make a complete recovery, Verveer said.

The other stabbing victim, who was attacked on the 400 block of West Mifflin Street about 7:30 p.m., was stabbed in the buttocks and was so intoxicated he didn't know what happened to him, Veveer said.

The three Madison police officers who were injured are also doing well, Verveer reported.

As of 9 p.m. on Saturday, 160 people had been arrested. Most were cited and released for offenses like having glass on the street, underage drinking, and depositing human waste, according to an incident report filed by police spokesman Joel DeSpain.

The Madison police officer in charge Sunday would give no further information on arrests or citations and DeSpain and Wray were unavailable.

"I try to be an optimistic person but I have to admit that I'm somewhat pessimistic about being able to end this 42-year tradition overnight," Verveer said based on the city's experience trying to quell the event following a 1996 riot.

At that time, the city didn't have the cooperation of neighborhood residents who continued to have house parties on the day of the block party as police tried to keep people moving on the streets and sidewalks.

"What I think could turn this around is the cooperation of the new residents on the street that will be moving in after August 15," Verveer said.

The Majestic Theatre and Capitol Neighborhoods Inc. sponsored this year's event. Majestic co-owner Scott Leslie called the party "an interesting experience from our end," noting that a healthy number of people were in front of the stage for live music all day.

"From a business perspective, we haven't gotten around to a final accounting yet. From that perspective we're not sure how it went. From an operational and organizational standpoint, I think it went all right," he said.

Leslie said the event was in no way a financial windfall for the Majestic, and will likely be a breakeven proposition.

It's hard to say whether the Majestic will be involved next year, he said. "We need to take a day or two to breathe and think about it" and have a debriefing with stakeholders, he said.

Susan Schmitz, president of Downtown Madison Inc., who was involved in taming the rowdy Halloween party on State Street, isn't sure it's necessary to end the block party.

"That's a tough one," she said. "There are customs and when you have an event that's totally around drinking, it's tough."

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