SempleFest fizzles after police crackdown

By Olivia Garber

Pitt students attempted to continue the F*ck Finals Friday tradition, a night traditionally… Pitt students attempted to continue the F*ck Finals Friday tradition, a night traditionally lauded as the pinnacle of drunken college debauchery.

Regaled with stories of Dumpster fires and crowded streets, I, a SempleFest virgin, had high expectations for the evening.

Before I even had time to think “This is it?” SempleFest was over.

SempleFest 2010 was a figurative two-pump chump, leaving some students feeling a little dissatisfied.

4:30 p.m.

My first glimpse of SempleFest began with a crowd of about eight officers standing at the corner of Semple and Louisa streets.

“Somehow, they’re pondering how to get us,” Pitt senior Jackie Eagle said.

Police on the scene declined to comment and instead directed all questions to a commander who would be available today. Arrest and citation statistics would also be available today, officers said.

Eagle was one of about 20 students drinking at Pitt senior Dave Raffensperger’s place on Semple. Raffensperger said all the people drinking at his house were 21 or older.

Raffensperger had laid out caution tape lining where party-goers could stand if they did not want open container violations.

Like a couple fighting in a bad sitcom, the students stayed on their side of the line, the police on the other.

One student mourned the outcome.

“SempleFest died last year,” he said.

Devon McGee, a 21-year-old Pitt senior, held what he called something “between a shindig and a gathering” during SempleFest, his first time hosting.

McGee, who received a note from the police warning Semple Street dwellers about the consequences of SempleFest earlier last week, was a little resentful of the police treatment.

“It’s a bit ridiculous we get tear gassed on our own campus and can’t have a party,” McGee said.

McGee said he only allowed close friends who were 21 and older in his residence.

Raffensperger’s get-together was structured similarly, although he had a more positive opinion of the police, saying that the police were “understanding and great.”

Although he was a little disappointed with the turnout, Raffensperger, who is 21, said he and his friends could always go to the bars if SempleFest turned out to be a dud.

“It’s beer pong — it’s nothing too crazy. That’s what SempleFest should be about — chilling, friends, nothing too rowdy,” Raffensperger said.

As I ventured further down Semple Street, I trailed behind two police officers, carrying clipboards stocked with blank citation papers.

Although the police told me they weren’t allowed to comment on SempleFest, one police officer mentioned that the students were being “good” this year.

Shawna Kelly, a 20-year-old Pitt sophomore, wasn’t thrilled about the extra police force on her block.

“People on Semple are having get-togethers. It’s not what police are making it out to be,” she said.

Kelly added that the activities happening at SempleFest occur every weekend.

“It’s one day out of the year they are enforcing the rules,” Kelly said.

Two years ago, SempleFest was an out-of-control party turned-riot that ended with 18 arrests. The most common charges were public drunkenness and underage drinking.

SempleFest-goers set Dumpsters and couches on fire, requiring the presence of fire trucks.

10 p.m.

I gave SempleFest a few hours to regenerate, thinking that round two would be more eventful.

The street was darker, the air was rank with cheap keg beer and there were a few more people gathered, but otherwise, SempleFest was largely as I had left it.

Down the block, less than a dozen porches had people. Raffensperger’s place was the largest, with about 30 people.

Raffensperger and friends tapped five and a half kegs and only had one run-in with the police. Officers asked them to turn down their speakers.

Raffensperger said they weren’t allowed to have “amplified music.”

The police said, “Take it down or we’re going to ID all of you,” Raffensperger said.

Raffensperger complied and said they didn’t receive any more complaints from the police, who he called “more than respectful.”

“The Pitt police have been great. People got out of hand last year. [The police] are concerned for your safety. That’s their biggest concern,” Raffensperger said.

Kelsey Happel, a 19-year-old Pitt sophomore and Semple Street resident, received a note from police that warned Semple Street dwellers not to play loud music and to refrain from standing on sidewalks and rooftops.

Happel’s “party” was more of a “social gathering of close friends that just happened to be on Semple Street,” she said.

The low-key gathering was one of the last on the block, and it could be one of the last traces of SempleFest.

Happel is part of the younger generation trying to carry on the tradition of SempleFest. She doesn’t think it will return its reputation from days of old.

“It would be great if [our generation] could, but I don’t think anything is going to happen,” Happel said.

“I don’t want it to just fade away,” Happel said.

Fade it did.

As I made my way back to Fifth Avenue, I was amazed at the transformation of Semple Street. There were no rambunctious drunks, no couches on fire — only red cups, an occasional game of beer pong and Lady Gaga playing softly from a balcony.

I had anticipated debauchery but saw maturity. In the end, SempleFest 2010 sputtered out like the last drops out of a keg.