‘Blarney Blowout’ blown out by cold weather

  • UMass Amherst students Stephen Melchin, left, Nicholas Frasso and Patrick Frasso wait for the bus at Puffton Village in Amherst March 4, 2017 during Blarney Blowout. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • University of Massachusetts Amherst junior Amy Millhollin talks about Blarney Blowout, Saturday, at Puffton Village in Amherst. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • UMass Amherst senior Zach Milhem talks about Blarney Blowout March 4, 2017 at the Townehouses of Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • UMass Amherst students Stephen Melchin, left, Patrick Frasso and Nicholas Frasso huddle for warmth while waiting for the bus at Puffton Village in Amherst March 4, 2017 during Blarney Blowout. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • A temporary visitor parking ban at the Townehouses of Amherst is enforced March 4, 2017 during Blarney Blowout. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • UMass Amherst senior Liz McDermott talks about Blarney Blowout March 4, 2017 outside of the Mullins Center on campus. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • UMass Amherst juniors Blake Fitzgerald, left, Sean Conway and Ryan Stanton discuss their plans for Blarney Blowout March 4, 2017 at Puffton Village in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • UMass Amherst junior Nate Silver talks about Blarney Blowout March 4, 2017 at Puffton Village in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • UMass Amherst junior Nate Silver, center, talks about Blarney Blowout March 4, 2017 at Puffton Village in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • An increased police presence was visible at Puffton Village in Amherst March 4, 2017 during Blarney Blowout. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • UMass Amherst freshman Cameron Oulette, left, talks about Blarney Blowout March 4, 2017 outside of the Mullins Center on campus. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

@HughesMorgan_
Published: 3/4/2017 3:48:09 PM

AMHERST — In frigid temperatures and high winds Saturday, the much-loved — and much-maligned — “Blarney Blowout” was, instead, much subdued.

Scattered groups of college-aged people clad in green roamed the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus and North Amherst from morning into the early afternoon for “Blarney Weekend,” but the gatherings lacked the large-scale arrests and violence that characterized the event in 2014.

March 4 marks the last full weekend before spring break for UMass students, and a final chance to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Amherst for those leaving town for the break.

In 2014, the unofficially dubbed Blarney Blowout brought 55 arrests, as well as a heavy police response that included pepper spray.*

Since then, UMass and Amherst police have enacted parking bans, guest policy changes for on-campus housing and prominent police presence outside areas heavily populated with students.

But this year, UMass spokesman Daniel Fitzgibbons reported “no problems or unusual activity in the community” as of 2:30 p.m. The Amherst Fire Department, he said, responded to seven patient contacts, all treated on-site at the Mullins Center, where a concert began at 11:30 a.m.

The peaceful atmosphere continued through the afternoon, with Amherst Police reporting no arrests in a 5 p.m. statement from the university. One person was taken to Cooley Dickinson for alcohol intoxication, the statement added.

This weekend, police from Northampton, Ludlow, West Springfield, Belchertown, Easthampton and Pelham came to help control the car and foot traffic in and out of the Townehouses, Puffton Village Apartments and Hobart Lane.

“Officers and apartment complex security are on duty in the North Amherst neighborhoods and officers are interacting proactively with students and town residents,” said Fitzgibbons in a statement at 11 a.m.

Moving indoors

Students quickly made their way from bus stops into friends’ houses and apartments, where music could be heard from outside. From the morning into the early afternoon, no large gatherings were visible in North Amherst.

Revelry and excitement were blown out by harsh winds and low temperatures, some students said.

“I think the cold is causing people to stay inside, and maybe wait until the bars open later,” said UMass senior Zach Milhem.

Milhem said he thinks things have “calmed down” since his freshman year, when the Blowout garnered national media attention.

“The police presence is crazy compared to freshman year,” Milhem said. “It’s gotten a lot quieter, a lot less fun. It’s been like this for the last couple of years.”

Though some students’ party plans may have been thwarted by police presence, Milhem called police “polite,” and said he saw no issues.

Amy Millhollin, a UMass junior, said she thinks many Blarney-goers were deterred by the police posted at apartment complex entrances.

“I think some people are nervous because there’s cops all over the place,” Millhollin said.

Nothing was able to put a damper on Millhollin’s party, however. A small group, dressed in St. Patrick’s Day green, spilled from inside her Puffton apartment.

“Every weekend kids are drinking during the day on Saturdays; I don’t think today should be any different,” she said. “Everyone just wants to have fun. No one wants to destroy anything; we just want to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.”

Beside Millhollin, UMass junior Nathan Silver said that despite the parking restrictions for vehicle without Puffton parking passes, he was able to hitch a ride with friends who live in the complex to join the festivities. Silver said he feels no one expected this year’s celebration to be as strong as 2014.

“I think the expectations are lower for us now,” Silver said. “The last two years we haven’t been able to do as much because there’s cops everywhere.”

While waiting at a bus stop to head out of Puffton, Nick Frasso, a junior at UMass, said he thought the police and the weather would impede underclassmen from going out to celebrate Blarney Weekend, but upperclassmen would keep the party alive.

“Freshman and sophomores are probably going to stay in today, but juniors and seniors are going out no matter what,” Frasso said.

He explained that most of the partying will be done behind closed doors — literally. Typical spots where large groups tend to gather were blocked off, so people will have to bring the revelry indoors.

“There’s no big parties at Townehouses or Hobart today; those are off-limits,” Frasso said. “But if your friends want to have a party, they’re going to have a party — and it’s going to be extra big because everyone’s looking for something to do.”

Patrick Frasso, also a UMass junior, said he and his friends woke up at 6:45 a.m. Saturday to kick off festivities.

Though crowds were scattered and the UMass Amherst area was quiet overall, Rocki Patel, a junior at UMass, said that Blarney isn’t over, it’s just changed. “Everyone is still doing Blarney, they’re just working around the rules,” she said. “They’re still enjoying Blarney to the fullest.”

‘Mullins Live’

The third annual free concert at the Mullins Center began at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, with student act Nliten (pronounced “Enlighten”). The lineup featured Mike Posner, Flo Rida and popular hip hop artist Jeremih. The concert was intended to be a fun and safe alternative to Blarney celebrations that could involve alcohol.

According to UMass spokesman Daniel Fitzgibbons, the concert drew roughly 2,000 students. More than 3,000 tickets were distributed to UMass students since Monday.

Much like the gatherings in North Amherst, scattered groups of students dressed for the occasion — though some more bundled up than others — and briskly walked to the Mullins Center with their tickets around 11:30 a.m.

“This is where everyone else is going,” said UMass freshman Cameron Oulette. “The artists are pretty decent; my boyfriend really likes Flo Rida.”

Amherst party registry

Associate Dean of Students for Off-Campus Student Life Sally Linowski said that 24 parties were registered for Party Smart, a voluntary program designed to register parties before they happen so that the homeowner can be contacted in case of problems.

Of the 24 parties registered, none had any issues that Linowski was aware of. The program typically gets 17-18 parties registered a weekend. Since the program began in the fall, more than 200 parties have been registered, with only 17 or 18 courtesy calls being made. This does not mean any arrests — it means the police called the party host to give them a warning that they have 20 minutes to disperse the gathering before police arrive to break it up.

A party on Summer Street in Amherst and another party at an unknown location were broken up peacefully by police, according to a statement from the university.

*This article originally mischaracterized the types of equipment used by the Amherst Police Department during the 2014 Blarney Blowout.

Morgan Hughes can be reached at mahughes@umass.edu.


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