Police, UMass and town officials report ‘successful’ Blarney Blowout

By Aviva Luttrell

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Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

Police, University of Massachusetts and Town of Amherst officials reported a “successful” Blarney Blowout Saturday evening, with only six arrests and no serious injuries or property damage.

Amherst Police Chief Scott Livingstone said although there were many gatherings across town, students acted responsibly and no large crowds formed. Additionally, approximately 6,000 students filled the Mullins Center during the afternoon for the free “Bring the Spring!” concert, featuring Juicy J, Ludacris and Kesha.

Many said the atmosphere differed greatly from last year’s event, during which police in riot gear arrested 55 students at off-campus apartment complexes.

“(It’s) definitely a lot more tame, I would say,” said sophomore Samantha Ng.

“I don’t think there’s any comparison,” Livingstone said, adding there were very different circumstances this year.

Police, including officers from 14 different law enforcement agencies, spent the day engaging with students positively in North Amherst neighborhoods. Both entrances to the Townehouse Apartments, where the celebration has traditionally taken place, were completely blocked off by police. Only students with a valid parking permit were allowed to enter.

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

“I think a lot of the University students knew what to expect,” Livingstone said.

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Life Enku Gelaye said the main focus this year was on prevention, and University officials tried to communicate that message as broadly and as early to the student body as possible.

Amherst Town Manager John Musante thanked students for rising to the occasion, saying respect and cooperation was mutual.

Officials also considered the “Bring the Spring!” concert a success.

People began lining up outside of the Mullins Center shortly after 10 a.m. to get the best seats for the show.

“I have more friends going to the concert (than going to a party),” said Sam Guenzburger, a sophomore mathematics major, who declined to comment how long he’d been waiting to be one of the first people in line.

“I was kind of excited to see Kesha, and now Ludacris. I mean, I’m not a big fan of either of them, but I think it’s cool. They’re famous.”

Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian

(Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian)

Most students said they came to the concert instead of going to a party in the area because the concert was free, and it featured artists they wanted to hear.

“I’m not really going to pass up a free concert,” said Mary McAvoy, a freshman english major. “Kesha – like we used to listen to Kesha in middle school. This is basically the middle school dreams coming true. And it’s free, so … it’s a huge concert, so why not.”

The show, which lasted four hours, was relatively calm. Security was a constant presence, patting down students as they filed into the Mullins Center and standing around the arena as the artists performed, but only intervened when necessary.

Students were mostly optimistic that the concert would help to alleviate some of the problems that plagued the first weekend of March last year.

“I think it’s going to be smaller than in past years,” Guenzburger said. “I think there still will be a lot of students at Blarney, but I think it will be more under control and less crowded than last year.”

Sid Parasnis, a freshman computer science major, said, “I’m glad they have the concert instead of just having students roaming the streets free. I would probably be on the street right now walking around, but I’m at the concert right now, so I guess it worked already.”

The downtown bars also played a role in keeping things orderly.

According to Musante, six bar owners volunteered to open their establishments late at 4 p.m. He said this was very helpful, as there were no calls for service to the downtown area until late in the afternoon.

There were a total of 19 students treated on site for various medical issues at the concert, and one student was transported to Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton.

“We consider that a success, as well,” Musante said.

Aviva Luttrell can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @AvivaLuttrell. Patrick Hoff can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Hoff_Patrick16.

Jaclyn Bryson, Catherine Ferris and Marie MacCune also contributed to this report.