The Madison Police Department has a short message to UW-Madison students mulling whether to attend the Mifflin Street Block Party slated for Saturday: Don’t.
“While MPD has historically taken a fairly tolerant view of the Mifflin Street Block Party, this year is different,” acting Police Chief Vic Wahl said in a department announcement. “Any parties or gatherings occurring are in violation of the Governor’s ‘Safer at Home’ order. Please do what’s best for public health and stay home.”
Non-residents who gather in the area will be cited with a minimum $376 fine. UW-Madison will be notified of any university students cited for potential school discipline.
“In the interest of health and safety of our entire community, it is our expectation that Badgers practice social distancing to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Dean of Students Christina Olstad said in the announcement. “We are in this together and we know our Badgers will do their part.”
The annual springtime event held two weekends before graduation typically brings thousands of students and others to the 400 and 500 blocks of West Mifflin Street.
The party began in 1969 as a Vietnam War protest, but has morphed into a drunken rite of passage for some students.
About 7,000 partiers gathered last year — a small attendance compared to previous years, which some people attributed to the 40-degree temperature. In 2018, when the weather was sunny and warm, about 18,000 people filled the two blocks.
Public Health Madison and Dane County director Janel Heinrich warned that attending the event this year would be “extremely irresponsible” and result in more COVID-19 cases.
“I understand the desire to go outside as the days grow warmer and we enter a new season,” Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said. “But we are not out of danger yet. I join our governor, our Public Health officials, and our partners at the University of Wisconsin in urging you all to protect yourselves — and the rest of our community — by avoiding public gatherings at this pivotal time.”