Social media, party-promoting websites helped bring out-of-towners to Blarney Blowout

Sunday, March 16, 2014
AMHERST — On Twitter in the week leading up to the Blarney Blowout, there were dozens of tweets such as “roadtrip to Umass,” “heading to UMass like the rest of the world” and “I will buy alcohol for the person who let’s us stay with them Saturday night at Zoomass.”

They were almost all from college-age adults, some from as far away as Boston, Connecticut, New York, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

Besides the buzz on social networks using the hashtag #BlarneyBlowout, newspapers wrote in advance about the event and websites popular with college students ran stories about the bash before and after. They included smackcollege.com ’s post informing viewers that they do not want to miss the “infamous party.” Barstoolsports.com posted videos titled, “UMass Blarney Blowout Looked Fun” and brobible.com posted “Is UMass Blarney Blowout a Top 10 College St. Patty’s Day Party?”

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UMass spokesman Edward Blaguszewski said the online buzz is one of the reasons this year’s Blarney Blowout drew so many non-students.

“It’s a new variable,” he said Thursday.

“People came from all sorts of places, from around Massachusetts, New England and even outside New England,” he said. “I think that’s an indication of the social networking world we live in. And this is not unique to UMass; it’s a problem a lot of places are dealing with.”

Blaguszewski said the fact that only 21 of the 55 arrested Saturday were UMass Amherst students not only shows how many came to campus, but also drives home that the university may need to find new ways to discourage the unruly behavior.

The university warned students before the event that they could be fined, suspended or expelled, but those punishments do nothing to deter visitors. They can, of course, face criminal charges, as 34 non-UMass students do after this year’s event.

“We had a lot of visitors to campus, a lot of visitors in the dining halls, clearly much more than were here the year before,” Blaguszewski said. “I suspect that contributed to the situation that people were here early in the day and ready to party.”

The number of visitors does not diminish the role some UMass students had in the event, he added.

He said the university will consider banning visitors in on-campus housing during the Blarney Blowout weekend next year. “We’ve done it in the past during the Super Bowl and World Series, so it’s not unprecedented,” he said. But the university cannot control visitors coming to off-campus housing.

Similarly, it cannot stop the “prolific” posting on social networks about the Blarney Blowout or promotion of the event on websites.

“Especially on Twitter, people share plans to gather in a very broad, public way,” Blaguszewski said.

Throughout the daylong event, they also tweeted photos and videos of young people chugging beer, wrestling, pulling down lampposts and hurling ice, along with police pepper-spraying students and firing pepper balls into crowds of 4,000.

Their posts were then collected and used on websites like BarstoolSports, apparently to the pleasure of many who posted such tweets as, “Hey mom, I’m on barstool!” and “I’ve been on Barstool twice in one week. I’m a celebrity.”

Blaguszewski said all the attention paid to Blarney Blowout in the online community of college students has given it a reputation as a very special event.

“It’s taken on, in some minds, mythical proportions, when it’s really just people hanging out and drinking on lawns and snowbanks,” he said.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.