Sights and sounds of College Fest

Alicia Balog

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Read about the 2009 College Fest riots

Related story: Police break up College Fest

Tripping over crushed beer cans, red plastic cups and broken glass, people stumbled up and down College Avenue in Downtown Kent as the smell of rain, beer and cigarette smoke mixed in the misted air.

Girls in tank tops and shirtless guys ignored the cold, damp weather and walked around; they carried cases and cups of beer, hugged one another, shouted and screamed admissions of love over the music that blared out from seemingly nowhere in particular.

The houses, filled to their brims with dancing, jumping and drinking, creaked as people climbed atop one another to reach the roofs and curl out of windows.

Wearing bright blue or black helmets, police walked the street as well, telling the people on the roofs to get down, carrying sets of flexi-cuffs in case anything got out of hand.

Still, people carried on and partied out College Avenue — drinking, laughing and having a good time. While the party continued, some students strolled the side streets talking about wanting food and more alcohol.

“When will you get me my Wendy’s? I got you the weed,” a guy said to his friend as they left a party and waltzed further downtown.

A drunken girl, holding onto her friends for support, chanted, “Chicken nuggets!” as she crossed Summit, to which a group of guys yelled, in no specific order:



“Honey Mustard!”

Owing to the rain, people slipped like fish in the mud, falling into the ground with loud thumps, giggling and recounting how funny they thought they looked. Some guys made it a game as they slid on upturned tables down hills slicked with mud, the grass torn away by thousands of trampling students.

One girl fell over drunk to the sidewalk and swaddled in a mixture of alcohol and mud, as a group of guys walked by and laughed.

Some guys ogled over girls, deciding simultaneously who was wasted and who was not; wicked smiles on their faces.

“There’s nothing wrong with high school ass as long as it’s 18,” said one guy to his buddies as they walked the streets.

As the police continued to patrol College Avenue, a shirtless guy whispered to his buddies, “Let’s act like we’re part of the police.” A guy caked in mud quickly approached them asking, “Are you following the police?” Slowly, a crowd formed behind the police as they walked through the overcrowded party.

Fights broke out as people consumed three-to-many beers. Guys sported ripped, mud-caked clothes and bloodied skin as they continued to drink and enjoy the party. Bright red streaks dripped down a man’s beaten, pulpy face as people tried to shade him from view.

After the police broke up a fight, full beer bottles sailed through the air towards the police who backed away cautiously from spots of just-shattered glass.

Standing in the middle of the street, all a person could do was watch and duck as beer bottles from one yard of drunken people flew towards the police in a yard opposite. A beer bottle smacked a girl, only a few feet away from the throng, on the top of her head. A few people started to run, fearing for their safety.

Students began to riot, fighting the police, one another, whomever they wanted.

One student yelled, “It’s anarchy! They’ve got an armored vehicle!” as more police and SWAT arrived on the scene to break up fights and, ultimately, the giant party, allowing ambulances to drive down the congested street to help those who needed emergency care.

More riots broke out as party participants refused to leave the party.


People froze with fear as the police fired the first Hail Mary can of tear gas into the crowd.

Sitting away from the street, watching people leave, groups of guys bragged about “all the ass they’ve kicked.” One man said “Three words: Fuck those pigs!” to the disgust and awe of some people around him. A third man complained the police burned his hand after he picked up a canister of tear gas and threw it back.

Smaller pops filled the air as police shot rubber bullets into the still unruly crowd. People slowly left towards campus to continue their parties. Whether it was outside or inside, they were still laughing and having fun, indifferent to the tear gas and rubber bullets that filled the street where students, beer and fun had once been.

Long before the riots even began, one policeman summed up College Fest better than anyone afterward.

“It’s way worse than last year.”