Wertland Street today looks quite different than it did on August 20th, the date of UVa’s informal “block party.”
Block party traditionally involves binge drinking, wandering drunkenly in the street, and many rescue assists from police and paramedics.
Current second year Rachel Thoms lives on Wertland Street, and attended block party last year.
“I felt overwhelmed,” she says. “Like where am I, what’s going on, there’s people everywhere!”This year, the University Programs Council planned a concert with popular artist J. Cole, which the majority of first years attended.
“The J. Cole concert just gave them [the first years] something tangible to do with their entire hall and all their friends,” says EricaJoy Oliverio, Chair of UPC.
Every first year was given a J. Cole ticket on their move-in day, and UPC ran a lottery for upperclassmen to obtain tickets. UPC gave eight hundred upperclassmen free tickets to the concert, and an additional one hundred upperclassmen in the standby line received tickets as well.
EJ Oliverio says UPC has been dreaming of this big event for Welcome Week for years, calling it, “every programming board’s dream.” The J. Cole concert also helped keep students away from block party and off Wertland Street.
“Our former chair, Tom Pilnik, he submitted a proposal saying we wanted this really big concert,” she says. “It was all in tandem with the block party and so those two things merged together, married to help us create our goal that we’ve had for literally years.”
New first year student Caroline Bondi did not even consider attending block party.
“I don’t drink at all and I’ve heard that it’s not very safe,” says Caroline.
When asked what she planned to do on the first night of school in coming years when she is of legal age to drink, Caroline replied, “anything but block party.”
In the past, block party has not been safe. But this year’s statistics from the Charlottesville Police Department show the party was more tame than last year.
In 2015, police issued 24 warnings for alcohol related offenses and 2 summonses. In 2016, police issued 8 warnings and 19 summonses. The higher number of summonses does not necessarily mean the party was more wild, but rather that police are enforcing laws regarding alcohol consumption more stringently.
Compared to 2015’s 13 assisted rescues, 2016’s block party only saw 2 assisted rescue cases.
Although Rachel Thoms has attended block party for the past two years, she says she could be convinced by UPC to miss it, if they planned an event she would like.
“If it was one of my bands I would definitely skip block party to go see them,” she says.
EJ says that both UPC and John Paul Jones Arena are on board for bringing a big name artist to UVa in the upcoming years for the first years’ Welcome Week.