Temperatures of over 60 degrees and plenty of sunshine spurred strong attendance, numerous arrests and early shutdowns at this year’s Palmer Fest.
According to a news release from the City of Athens, a total of 25 people were arrested by various departments, including the Athens Police Department, the Ohio University Police Department and the Ohio Investigative Unit.
Of those arrested, four people were taken to jail, with one being on a felony drug charge.
Athens Police Chief Tom Pyle said police would begin shutting down parties earlier due to the number of people on the small street.
“We’re working very hard to keep people out of the street, but there’s not as much geography to do it and so it’s going to cause major problems,” he said. “I’m really concerned that we’re going to have to start shutting this down a lot earlier than what we expected because (of) the geography and the crowd density.”
Athens Mayor Steve Patterson said this year’s crowd was larger than previous years due to the warm spring weather.
“This is a good crowd,” Patterson said. “I mean, it’s a big crowd, bigger than I think last year’s was. Of course, the weather last year was much colder than this year, so I think the weather is bringing people out.”
By approximately 2:30 p.m., about four or five parties had been shut down, Pyle said. Parties were shut down due to people throwing beer cans at police officers and underage drinking.
“All of them were for throwing beer cans at police officers,” he said. “I think there might have been one that was simply (the Ohio Investigative Unit) arrested some people for underage (drinking), and they had repeated warnings.”
Patterson said many of the parties were in violation of the city’s Nuisance Party Law, which is what allowed police to shut parties down.
“With Mill Fest, a lot of it was being shut down because there were infractions. That’s what triggers the nuisance party (violation),” Patterson said. “Underage drinking, litter just pouring out into the streets, someone carrying an open container out onto the sidewalk — you can’t do that.”
According to the news release, most parties were shut down by 4 p.m. At last year’s Palmer Fest, parties weren’t completely shut down until 5:30 p.m.
OU interim President David Descutner attended his first fest, which he called “lively.”
“I think the approach that the city and OUPD is taking is reasonable, because they’re trying to prioritize public safety and, at the same time. they’re acknowledging students’ freedom to have fun, and have fun in their limits,” Descutner said. “I think that’s one of the things that’s special about this. Everyone’s trying to be respectful of each other’s liberties, and I think that matters.”
Despite the numerous arrests and early shut downs, many festgoers still managed to have a good time. Alyssa Dunn, a sophomore studying early childhood education, said the warm weather made attending Palmer Fest worth it.
“I like that it’s nice out,” Dunn said. “Last year, it snowed, and that was not fun, so today will be a good day to have some fun.”
Zach Konsoer, a junior studying education, brought his English bulldog, Otis, to party with him.
“He loves people,” Konsoer said. “He’s very entertained by anything and everything. I thought it’d bring him out.”
This year's spring fest season will wrap up with Number Fest on April 21-22.
— Aubree Dix, Lauren Fisher, Bailey Gallion, Taylor Johnston, Abbey Marshall, Kaitlyn McGarvey, Anastasia Nicholas, Jackie Osborne, Kevin Pan, Sarah M. Penix and Luke Torrance contributed to this report.