By Jon Sundby
This year, Grinnell College administration has moved to curtail the drinking culture at the College, and as a result, there have been whispers around campus concerning the future of Block Party. Despite these rumors, Block Party is set to usher out yet another academic year through a full day of music, food and beer on High Street.
“I would say that it’s more than on schedule right now,” said Thomas Marsho ’17, an organizer of the party. “We’ve done a lot of things earlier than last year.”
2016’s Block Party was plagued by underfunding, so the organizers of this year’s event, Marsho, Ariel Keller ’17 and Claudia Handal ’17, have worked hard to make sure that the party is on stable ground. The number of beer trucks at the event have been reduced from two to one, although there will still be 30 kegs and fundraising efforts for alcohol have increased. T-shirt and Die sales have been strong this year, and the organizers hope for a big turnout tonight at the Block Party Auction. As SGA cannot use any of its funds to purchase alcohol, this fundraiser is a key component in raising enough money for the beer truck and kegs.
“[The auction] has been going on for a while, but there has been less publicity about it as well,” Keller said. “The auction helps raise money for alcohol, so students are welcome to donate services, objects, whatever it may be.”
Beyond ensuring that the ledgers are sound, the organizers are also making changes to the party experience itself, hoping to create a more inclusive and safe environment. Earlier in the year they sent out an online questionnaire to the student body to investigate potential reforms to the event. In general, students wanted to diversify the activities of Block Party so that sub
-free individuals and those still burdened with finals could enjoy the day as well.
“[We want] more games that aren’t just like drinking games, more sidewalk chalk,” Keller said. “You don’t have to drink. We’d like to push the fact that you can come in that 11-1 period when you’re not taking finals, so it encourages everyone to come to the event.”
“More food, more booze were also suggestions,” said Marsho. “[And] we accounted for both of those.”
In addition to these changes, a new active bystander training program is being designed that focuses on particular issues surrounding Block Party. Ella Williams ’18 reached out earlier in the year to Keller, Marsho and Handal, and presented the idea of training off-campus residents in bystander techniques.
“They’re tailoring an active bystander training for this event, so it’ll be more specific to the things we might be seeing throughout the day, things that you might see in houses that you might not see in on-campus parties. … It goes along the lines of proving that self-gov is still not dead,” Handal said.
All the organizers hope that the changes they’re making this year will help the event survive an era in which many of Grinnell’s traditions have been amended or eliminated. For the past few years, the department of Student Affairs has slowly backed away from helping plan the party, increasing the role that students play in putting on the event. This heightened responsibility has been a challenge for the seniors, but it’s one Marsho, Keller and Handal are ready to take on, and hope that future generations of students will too.
“We want to make this a long-term event,” Handal said.