Sunday, May 3, 2009

Block and Roll

Now that, my friends, was one helluva Mifflin Street Block Party.

I was absolutely thrilled, as I tooled around the best unprompted celebration in the midwest this weekend, microphone in hand and occasionally nursing a brew, to see everything I found disheartening about last year's block party on the mend. Even though the overall attendance was higher this year, arrests dropped through the floor. Instead of (just) staring out over the crowd and pounding beers, party-goers meandered between the food carts or danced to the live music.
Police, for the most part, played the role of peace keepers and let the party happen.

Having a main stage as a central focus is exactly what the Mifflin Street Block Party needed, and as a WSUM alum, I could not be prouder of the UW's student radio station for taking a leadership role in making it happen. In my time as a leader at WSUM, fronting the main event at what is arguably the most beloved annual celebration for UW students was something we could only dream of. The station, founded in 2002, was too young. Now, they're revelling in every ounce of credit they have due them after an uproariously successful first bout as the patron saints of the block party.

The fact that the organizers who simultaneously brought city-sanctioned music, focus and porta-potties back to the block party made their way through every bit of red tape the city could throw at them in nine days is a testament to what this event could become. I'm not talking about something gated, stamped and bled of all its verve like (don't say Freakfest) Halloween on State Street.

Instead, many of the organizers, and I as well, hope to see Mifflin grow to its former glory. Certainly I don't want it to become a violent clash between war protesters and police again -- in fact, I'd prefer it if there wasn't a war to protest at all. But if one stage with DJs can succeed, what about another stage full of local rock acts, and another stage featuring hip-hop artists, or reggae, or indie.

It took a whole lot of people to get the block party headed back toward these ends. Alders Mike Verveer and Bridget Maniaci tried group after group, looking for one viable enough to front the money and expertise to make it happen. WSUMers, particularly general manager Dave Black, engineer Matt Rockwell and station manager Jenny Underwood, turned their full focus like a sharply-honed tool on bringing every puzzle piece together in breathtaking time. Mayoral aide Joel Plant and dozens of other city staffers exercised patient wisdom in helping, guiding and, eventually, green-lighting the entire fiasco. David Coleman and Ny Bass from DCNY Pro helped pull it all together through promotion and organization. Central District Police Captain Mary Schauf was just as involved every step of the way as she was on the day itself, exhibiting a dedication that was topped only by the discretion with which her officers acted throughout the course of the block party.

All in all, it was truly a Mifflin Day Miracle, and I'm more excited than ever to see what next year's block party will bring.

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