Thanks to the 1990’s more relaxed laws and the wonderful development of the old Sesame Street Apartments, Bloomsburg became very well-known over the years for the large spring semester gathering now known as Block Party. This history of Block Party is not widely well know, but thanks to some willing BU alum, the timeline of changes between the beginning and present can be seen very clearly.
“Back then ‘block parties’ were very common but the off campus apartment one took the cake due to the amount of people that showed up because of the square design and it was just enough outside of town to go all night and to be left alone for the most part. Other block parties were common through out the year but the old off campus apartments (Sesame Street) was the one everyone look forward to once a year. The block party took place mostly outside, every apartment had a cover charge for beer, most people walked and brought their own.
The grass area in front and behind apartments were packed with crowds including the square parking lot. Not many people parked in the lot because bottles were always being thrown, fires started with furniture, and cars even flipped. So there was more space for crowds. Police for the most part left it alone because it wasn’t hurting anything in town and 99% of people were walking not driving… Not sure what block party consists of now but I image it’s regulated pretty tight and you better be 21 and not causing trouble. It’s not as care free as it once was (a university just having some fun)” said Kris Rech, Bloomsburg student between the years of 1997-1998.
“Obviously, for those current students and more recent alumni, it’s visible that times have changed and the days of free-reign partying are long over. Since the demolition of Sesame Street and the inaugural debut of a town-wide block party, many things have changed, including the opinions of more recent alumni. “It was wild and seemed to have been the last straw for the town. Sophomore year was when they implemented the ordinances that forced Greek life/each organization to submit an application to rope off their property and limit the amount of people who had access to “the party”. I worked in Greek life when all that began and it was a headache, but I kind of understood from an adult standpoint why they had such a problem with block party.
As a student it was nerve racking having such a high police presence, trying to see who was a BU student or a visitor, etc, but I know we never ran into a problem at the [sorority] house. Yet, it caused a lot of resentment towards the town and police, because you can only be responsible for yourself and not those from out of town who always seemed to make up the most of who got arrested. As an alumni, I’ve been to block party and it wasn’t like how it used to be. It was kind of a letdown honestly. I feel like the tradition has been limited because everyone’s so lawyer happy. It’s sad that students these days don’t get to experience the fun we had years ago,” said alumni Caitlin Herring.
The changes seen between Herring’s freshman and sophomore years were some of the largest and most influential changes made to make today’s Block Party different from that of the previous years. These tighter regulations forced Bloomsburg students and visitors alike to abide by more rules and regulations, which also brought about the problem of more ways to get into trouble.
In the words of Bloomsburg graduate Christina Donohue, class of 2015, “I haven’t been to a block party as an alumni yet but I think it’s overall a good experience. It’s good for recent alumni to meet up with everyone that haven’t seen in a while. Also I think it’s good for the town and university, even though they probably won’t agree, because it brings in a ton of money and it’s a reason why people go to Bloomsburg. It’s also gotten a lot tamer since I was a freshmen. There are a ton more rules so I feel like it’s gotten safer than it was in the past.”
The overall feedback from alumni if regards to Block Party held one common factor true- Block Party now has more rules now and it is safer which is great, but they also feel it’s not quite as enjoyable due to the fear or the town, school, and police presence now associated with the weekend. Over the years, more and more ordinances have been put into effect by the town of Bloomsburg in order to try and tame Block Party and make it an enjoyable event for those in attendance, but to make it not as detrimental to the town, but will there ever be a happy medium?
This article originally appeared on BlockPartyInsider.wordpress.com, a project for Mass Communications’ Spring 2016 Journalism Workshop. You can view all of the workshop’s work there.