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Rumors circulate of possible Hobart Hoedown in Amherst Sunday

The spring event that once drew large, drunken crowds and sparked at least one riot in the past has been largely dormant in recent years. However, University of Massachusetts Amherst officials are ever watchful that it will be resurrected.

Social media and emails among students indicate that the event, centered on Hobart Lane north of the UMass campus, may take place Sunday. Authorities have already geared up for a number of other activities, including the pro-marijuana legalization rally Extravaganja on the Town Common Saturday and concerts both Saturday and Sunday night at the Mullins Center.

UMass spokesman Edward Blaguszewski said university officials are paying attention to information about a possible Hobart Hoedown.

“There’s always rumors and reports and we are hearing that as a potential,” Blaguszewski said. “Whether that is true or not is hard to tell.”

Amherst Police Chief Scott Livingstone said about half of his 45-member department is working Saturday.

“We’re prepared for a busy Saturday afternoon and Saturday night,” Livingstone said.

UMass police are expected to have full staffing throughout the weekend due to the number of events planned on campus, though it will make officers available should any disturbances occur off campus.

Livingstone said the department’s planning has anticipated that any efforts to have a Hobart Hoedown would be April 26, the weekend after many students will return home for Easter and Patriots Day.

“I’m planning to order everyone in on the 26th,” Livingstone said.

One email promoting the event indicates the Hobart Hoedown may happen Sunday and is advising students to use stealth tactics, including minimizing posts on Twitter and Facebook:

“Be prepared for the best party of the year UMass. Let’s make the attendance over 5,000. We need your help to accomplish this. Spread the word but keep it subtle. The key to success is secrecy.”

The last major Hobart Hoedown occurred in May 2010, when an estimated 3,500 students gathered on the street and set up a slippery slide, mud wrestling and a bikini contest.

When Hobart Hoedowns have occurred in the past, including one in 2003 that caused significant destruction and injured officers, they have usually been the last major event of the spring semester.

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