To the naked eye, the inaugural edition of Congress Fest looked like a rousing success. Starting early on Friday afternoon, Ohio University students were out in droves on the road adjacent to Court Street: chatting, dancing and often drinking. But Lindsay Wolz, a senior studying sport management, was unsure how much of that was due to the fest itself.
"With or without Congress Fest, this would happen," Wolz said of the turnout as she watched crowds pass by from her porch. "It's warm again and everyone wants to be out on their porches and drinking."
Temperatures hovered around the mid-70s for most of the night, much warmer than last weekend's Mill Fest or Milliron Fest. Several fest-goers said they would be out and walking around even if there was no fest going on, just to enjoy the nice weather.
Still, some of the party hosts on Congress appreciated the effort to make things official. Dan Rhinehart is a junior studying marketing and business analytics who threw a party at his house. He said it was nice to have Congress Fest, or Congo Fest, listed as an "official" fest.
"Last year, this fest wasn't on the list," he said. "This year it is."
One student claimed that Congress Fest was "official" this year because the Athens Police Department was notified about it. This was disputed by Lt. Adam Claar of the APD.
"Nobody talked to us about making this fest official," he said.
Lt. Claar said there had been a few arrests, mostly for intoxication, but otherwise things were pretty calm.
"Small calls," he said. "Open containers, a few parties shut down, some noise complaints earlier in the day. Things like that."
For some, Congress Fest was an opportunity to do more than just party. Becky Chmielewski, a graduate student majoring in painting and drawing, set up a table that said "Ask a Lesbian." She said the fest presented an opportunity for conversation. She also provided passers-by with hot dogs.
"Art revolves around creating conversation, and that's what I'm trying to do," Chmielewski said. "A lot of people came up and wanted to talk ... it reveals a base level of humanity."
Chmielewski said she had tried her "Ask a Lesbian" stand at Mill and will do so at High Fest. But she said she enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere on Congress.
"It seems like a block-party mentality," she said. "It feels like a safe environment, people aren't drinking just to get wasted."
There were still plenty who had come to party. Sam Kwiatkowski, a senior studying journalism, thought Congress Fest was plenty of fun.
"People think Mill Fest is the number one fest at OU," he said. "But people forget 61 N. Congress is leading the entire city in trash tickets.”
Maggie Campbell and Ellen Wagner contributed to this report.