Free food and free beer was too much for students to resist during this year’s Mayfest celebration.
More than 3,000 students showed up in Walnut Park to take advantage of the Syracuse University sponsored Mayfest party on Friday afternoon. Euclid Avenue, in contrast, remained eerily quiet as a few students lounged outside their houses, quietly playing music, watching Syracuse City Police drive by.
“All the cops definitely makes for a more reserved party, which actually I prefer,” said Caleb Sheldon, a 2009 SU graduate who was back visiting for the Mayfest celebration. “I can walk around and not be harassed by drunk people, not that I have a problem with drunk people. It’s just nice to be able to enjoy the day without them.”
Nearby, senior Justin LaLuz hosted a party on the 700 block of Euclid Avenue where he and his friends crowded onto their front porch, playing beer pong and heckling the passersby. “Yeah, the cops have come over here. They said we had to turn the music down. They’re definitely putting a damper on things. I’m severely disappointed by this,” said LaLuz.
The muted scene on Euclid Avenue was broken up mid-morning by an accident on the corner of Sumner and Euclid Avenues. A police car - its vision blocked by an eastbound bus on Euclid Avenue - turned left onto Sumner Avenue. and struck an oncoming biker. Aubrey Schmidt, 20, a freshman at State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, was taken to SUNY Upstate Medical University where she was treated for scrapes and bruises and immediately released after being cleared of any serious injuries, said Sergeant Gary Bulinski of the Syracuse Police Department.
The entire community policing division, around 24 officers and one supervisor, were assigned to patrol Euclid Avenue Friday afternoon according to Chief Tony Callisto of SU’s Department of Public Safety.
Down in Walnut Park, hundreds of students milled about, queuing up to the food booths serving everything from cheese steaks to vegan portabella burgers, and listening to the bands recruited by concert coordinators at the University Union.
“It sucks,” senior Natalia Del Valle-Catoni said. “Well, it’s just not Mayfest. It’s supposed to be a student-run thing and now it’s a school thing. I came here just for the free food and beer and then I’m going back to Euclid to party.”
Many students echoed Del Valle-Catoni’s sentiment. “The free food is definitely a plus, but you just come here and stand. Definitely not as good as Euclid,” said junior ESF student, Mark Story.
Student Association president, Jon Barnhart, who was instrumental in organizing the event, said he was very pleased with the turnout, despite student grumbling.
“Some students are going to go to Euclid; we know that," Barnhart said. "I just ask that they do it safely. There are a lot of police there. I know in years past, Euclid sees about 3,000 to 5,000 students.
"So, the fact that we have over 3,000 students here now is great. This reminds me a lot of Juice Jam, except with free food and beer.”
Barnhart also stressed the importance of having an alternative for the Mayfest tradition in place of canceling it altogether. “ [Mayor] Stephanie Miner said at the beginning of the year that her policy was zero-tolerance for Mayfest. From what I hear, it’s being well-enforced on Euclid. The University had its hands tied,” he said.
As the afternoon wore on, and after the free beer stopped being served at 3 p.m., Walnut Park slowly emptied and the crowd on Euclid Avenue grew. Twelve DPS officers were reassigned to Euclid Avenue. to police the situation for the evening. Speculation ran rampant as to whether Euclid Avenue would fill up with students and parties as Walnut Park shut down and students moved to Euclid. “Walnut is good, but Euclid isn’t going to be stopped,” said junior Gerard McTigue.
“I think we’re going to get crushed on Euclid tonight,” said Syracuse police officer Ken Burdick.
Paul Brockwell contributed to this report.