BRYAN FAUST/Herald photo

With the Mifflin Street Block Party less than three weeks away, city officials continue working with residents in preparation for the annual event.

Avoiding the controversy that arose last year over the party's date, city officials last month unanimously set April 29 as the day 30,000 to 40,000 partygoers are expected descend on Mifflin Street.

This date, to the relief of University of Wisconsin students, falls a full week before spring semester exams begin.

Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said this year the city planned accordingly in order to appease the student body.

Traditionally, the block party is held the first Saturday of May, but a conflict between the student body and the city arose last year when the party's date fell on the unofficial university "study day."

"Despite the cops initially saying they wouldn't give into the students because they had already registered and organized the forces they needed, [changing the date] guaranteed one party instead of [multiple] parties," Verveer said.

After the City Council changed the date last year, Verveer said the Council immediately looked to this year's calendar to see if the same problem would occur, and it did.

However, advanced knowledge of the problem allowed the Madison Police Department to deliberately plan the party for the last week in April.

"We learned some important lessons [last] year," George Twigg, spokesperson for Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said. "It's important that we're communicating well with the student body."

Efficient communication also means city police are informing the area's residents about the party. Additionally, inspectors from the city and fire department are making sure house porches in the area are safe for parties.

"We want to make sure that [residents] understand and are aware of their ground rules," Twigg said. "This way, everybody knows what to expect."

According to Twigg, preparation for the annual block party is an extensive process that extends over several months.

City building and fire inspectors survey the area each year, ensuring safety of the houses in the designated party area: the 400 and 500 blocks of W. Mifflin Street, as well as the surrounding areas from West Dayton Street to West Washington Street and from North Broom Street to North Bedford St.

Madison Fire Department Public Information Officer Eric Dahl said the fire department's main concern is making sure hazardous material is cleaned up before the party.

"Our biggest concern is always people's safety," Dahl added. "There [are] a lot of things that can happen with a crowd like that. … People start having fun and forget what they're doing or realize what they're doing is dangerous."

Verveer also holds a neighborhood meeting the week of the block party to further inform the residents of the city's expectations for that weekend.

Verveer noted the police did "crack down" on house parties in an "unprecedented" way last year.

"One of the goals of the [neighborhood] meeting this year will have a crystal clear understanding to what will be allowed and what won't be allowed, so residents won't be totally shocked," he said.

And according to Verveer, a good relationship between all the stakeholders helps allow the annual party run smoothly. He said the party has had "relatively good success" in the past.

"In part, it's a testament to the residents of the Mifflin neighborhood," he said. "They work with city officials prior to the event to understand what the city's expectations are."