Heavy cloud cover, muddy sidewalks and a chilly nip in the air couldn’t stop students from taking to Mill Street on Saturday in search of a good time. In fact, it made for what one recent Ohio University graduate described this year’s Mill Fest as “a perfect storm.”
“I feel like it’s perfect,” Spencer Rinehart, who graduated in fall 2016, said. “I was crying earlier. It was allergies, plus a little bit of nostalgia.”
For Jared Robb, a freshman studying management information systems and business analytics, the reality of fest season far exceeded his expectations.
“I heard it was crazy, but actually walking up and down the street, it was incredible,” Robb said. “You have to experience it in person.”
Non-human partygoers, closely watched by their owners, were also in attendance, including Tito, a pug-nosed dog dressed as a security guard.
“I brought Tito because we needed some security for the party. He’s ID’ing people,” Sydney Kilbarger, a senior studying accounting, joked. “I like to people watch. We’re just kind of hanging low and hanging out.”
Athletic jerseys, rainbow hats and onesies were the unspoken uniform of this year’s fest, as noted by Katie Fronczak, a junior studying fashion product development, who made it her mission to “get as lit as possible.”
“I’ve been looking at the fashion of today,” Fronczak said. “Jerseys have been essentials, cut off shorts, crazy hats, rainbow rain hats.”
Further down the street, the parties raged on, albeit at a slightly slower pace, as local four-piece rock band “Do Not Resuscitate” kept the crowd locked in with music quite different from the rap and pop medleys that echoed through the air. Vocalist Connor McKelley passed out free CDs and stickers from a front porch, calling for a round of applause as the sun peeked through the clouds.
“I can go into my room with my speakers and put on any G-Eazy or Drake song. I can put a beat on and rap to it — it doesn’t take much,” McKelley said. “Playing this takes a lot of hard work and a lot of effort. … I think people appreciate it because it’s different ... and honestly, this was just a good opportunity to just give it a shot and make some noise.”
At about 8 a.m., just before the festivities began, members of Athens Code Enforcement went door to door on Mill Street and spoke with residents about keeping their house parties from being shut down. Earlier in the week, they circulated fliers with information on what antics could lead to the shutting down of a nuisance party — including noise, trash accumulation and an excess number of people.
By 3:30 p.m., police began shutting down numerous house parties along Mill Street, Athens Police Department Chief Tom Pyle said. He said the fest was “very unsafe” due to the size of the crowd and the number of party-goers darting in and out of traffic. This year’s festivities began around 8:30 a.m., nearly two hours earlier than last year.
“There might have been one or two parties that were not in violation that were allowed to continue,” Pyle said. “But the vast majority parties were in violation and had been in violation.”
Saturday’s Mill Fest saw arrest numbers remain unchanged from last year. There were 24 individuals arrested during both this year and last year’s events, with most of the charges related to alcohol, according to a press release. One individual was arrested on felony drug charges. Overall, 42 citations were issued, mostly for alcohol-related offenses.
Haylee Vajdich, a freshman studying biology and plant biology, was disappointed to see a party she was attending being shut down by local law enforcement.
“It was kind of scary,” Vajdich said. “I was sitting in a seat for like hours and (the police) said ‘you guys gotta leave if you don’t live here.’ I wasn’t doing anything wrong, I was just sitting in a seat and I was like ‘OK I gotta leave, sorry.’ ”