A campus-based reliever for the Mifflin Street Block Party has been in the planning stages for the last several months because of the city\’s aversion to Mifflin[/media-credit]

A city decision could mean students will have the opportunity to attend an alternative festival to the Mifflin Street Block Party May 4, leaders from the Wisconsin Union Directorate and the Associated Students of Madison said Tuesday. 

Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said city and university officials, including Soglin, met with student leaders at a Jan. 23 meeting.

“City officials gave a big green light to the conceptual plan of this event,” Verveer said. “The plans are still in their infancy.”

Sarah Mathews, president of the Wisconsin Union Directorate, said the event has a budget that would allow them to draw a nationally-known musical act. She added the event will be held the Saturday before the week before finals and be a vibrant music and arts festival.

David Gardner, spokesperson for the Associated Students of Madison, said the event is still in the planning phases to ensure cooperation between the city and campus government interests. Although the event’s location has not been finalized, he mentioned the area on Randall Court between Union South and Engineering Hall as a possible venue.

“It will be memorable and allow campus to come together in camaraderie and community,” Mathews said. “We’re not going to say don’t go to Mifflin. We’re students; we’re not against students having fun. We’re not trying to stomp out or control Mifflin.”

Andrew Bulovsky, ASM chair, said they were hoping to attract 5,000 attendants to the May 4 event. He said numbers are still being finalized, but they expect to have a budget of around $160,000. In a tweet late Tuesday night, Mathews said this number could be lower. 

The decision to hold an alternative event comes after months of speculation about Mifflin’s future. Last year, Mayor Paul Soglin and the Madison Police Department announced the party would not continue, with serious consequences for violators of the new policy.

But within the last several months, police began to say they would staff Mifflin with the same resources and enforce the same policies they did at the 2012 event, which saw low attendance compared to recent events.

Mathews said the Wisconsin Union had been discussing putting on a large end of the semester event for months, but knew they needed to recruit Associated Students of Madison and other student groups to make the event a success.

The decision for the May 4 event came from the university’s lack of an official event to celebrate the end of a year’s hard work before finals, Mathews said. She cited Northwestern University’s “Dillo Day” and the University of Pennsylvania’s “Hey Day” as examples of what the May 4 event could be modeled after.

“We wanted to create something vibrant and unique to UW-Madison,” she said.

She had the festival will embody the UW’s “play hard, work hard” ethic. Mathews also said the event will sell beer, but in a responsible, legal way to attendants who are of age.

Verveer said MPD will treat Mifflin the same as they did in 2012. This means there will be a similar number of officers, a similar low tolerance for any ordinance offenses and the police will not look the other way if someone has an open beer on the street or sidewalk.

Student Council voted to endorse the May 4 event in early December.  She said the funding for the event will come from ASM’s internal programming, donations, sponsorship, ticket sales and university endorsements.

“This is an event that needed to happen for a long time at the University of Wisconsin,” she said. “We don’t have an event that culminates at the end of the year where Badgers can unwind and celebrate the end of the year. It’s a last hurrah before finals.”

Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, said he supports a year-end event that is student-led. He said it is unfortunate sexual assaults and stabbings have occurred at Mifflin in previous years.

The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and University of Wisconsin-Green Bay should not be able to reflect poorly on the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Resnick said, referencing the problems people from outside of the UW have caused at the event in the past.

“At the previous two [Mifflin events] the only thing you could do was stand around and watch people get arrested,” Resnick said.

He said the May 4 event around Union South will be a welcome change and will include more programming. Madison should not let negative behavior impact the end of the year celebration that is important to many people, Resnick said.

Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, District 5, said Mifflin has become an event with too much violence fueled the by over-consumption of alcohol. She said she looks forward to a possible alternative event at Union South.

“My priority is to have a UW-Madison student-focused event that balances safety, fun and the needs of residents living in the surrounding neighborhoods,” Bidar-Sielaff said.