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Amherst, UMass expect quiet day despite previous Blarney Blowout tradition



Staff Writer 
Friday, March 04, 2016

 

AMHERST — Even though there will be a large law enforcement presence throughout Amherst on Saturday, Police Chief Scott Livingstone said he expects most of those officers will not be needed to deter drunken and destructive behavior.

“Everything we’re hearing on social media is pointing to a quiet day,” Livingstone said Thursday.

Two years after the so-called Blarney Blowout prompted police to don riot helmets, deploy pepper spray and make 55 arrests on the Saturday before spring break, there is increasing confidence among town and University of Massachusetts officials that a plan similar to the one enacted in 2015 will again deter the problems associated with the pre-St. Patrick’s Day revelry.

Livingstone said his department is coordinating nearly a dozen other agencies through the Western Massachusetts Mutual Aid Partnership which will send personnel to Amherst, many of whom will be the same police officers who helped keep the peace last year. 

Livingstone has declined to say how many officers will be in Amherst on Saturday.
UMass spokesman Edward Blaguszewski said students are being sent positive messages from campus officials, and those living off campus are getting information from neighborhood liaison Eric Beal, who is accompanied by William Laramee, the Police Department’s community liaison.

“That is really an extension of their work for this particular weekend,” Blaguszewski said.
Beal and Laramee have visited dozens of off-campus students’ homes, both near the campus and elsewhere in Amherst, handing out sheets about town bylaws and speaking to those who are home.

Even with a free concert at the Mullins Center featuring headliner Jason Derulo, and 4,280 tickets given out to UMass students by Thursday afternoon, Livingstone said there will be some students
who want to have their own parties and wear green on Saturday.

UMass is spending about the same as last year’s $305,000 to pay Derulo and two other musical acts, Migos and Capital Cities.

Livingstone said house parties will be tolerated, so long as they are limited in size and do not create neighborhood disturbances. 

Meanwhile, electronic signs at the entrances to the UMass campus  inform visitors of parking restrictions — only vehicles with UMass permits are allowed — which start Friday and remain in effect through Sunday. 
The UMass men’s basketball team plays La Salle at the Mullins Center at 8 p.m. Saturday, and fans coming to the game will be able to park in the usual lots there, Blaguszewski said.

One element that caused the Blarney Blowout problems in 2014 was the large influx of college-age people to Amherst, which is not expected to happen Saturday. Those from hundreds of miles away will find no on-campus accommodations, including dorms and dining
halls.

“Communicating to students about the guest policies early on addresses the issue,” Blaguszewski said, observing that students who wanted to have friends visit understood that is not possible
Saturday.

Livingstone said he has talked to local hotel owners to remind them about the weekend and the possibility that people will come to town looking for Blarney Blowout.

Originally a promotion begun by a downtown bar in 1999, Blarney Blowout continued to grow in popularity each year, with crowds of college students lining downtown streets for the 11 a.m. bar
openings. In 2012, though, drunken behavior, including vomiting and urinating and inappropriate accosting of shoppers and diners, prompted a police crackdown, and in 2013 the troublesome aspects of the event migrated to an open field at Townehouse Apartments in North Amherst, where more than 2,000 people attended a large party.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.