Fool's Fest 'canceled' but officials still concerned

2011-03-21T08:51:00Z 2011-03-29T07:49:57Z Fool's Fest 'canceled' but officials still concernedBy M.K. Guetersloh | mkguetersloh@pantagraph.com pantagraph.com

NORMAL — The plug may be about to be pulled on a weekend college party called Fool’s Fest, but city and Illinois State University officials are planning to step up security measures in advance of the April 1 event.

Budweiser and its Bloomington-based distributor, City Beverage, called for the event’s cancellation Monday afternoon, but the Normal City Council went ahead Monday night with a change in the liquor code to give the mayor the authority to shut down liquor sales if needed.

Four or five Illinois State University students started Fool’s Fest on a Facebook page about a month ago. They hoped to bring a weekend event to the Twin Cities similar to the annual Polar Bear Party at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and the Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

More than 10,000 people who visited the original Facebook page said they planned to attend the event. John Caruso of City Beverage said the business decided to remove the Facebook page on Monday, however.

“We were never a sponsor of this event,” Caruso said. “We got involved to help encourage a safe weekend, but then it went viral and got way out of hand.”

Another Facebook page sponsored by 12 area college students, mostly freshmen at ISU, was added shortly before City Beverage pulled its page from the social networking website. By Monday night, the page listed only two sponsor’s names but about 2,000 people saying they plan to attend.

University and town of Normal officials said plans to have extra officers on duty for the weekend starting April 1 will remain in place.

“The fact that a cancellation notice has been posted does not diminish what we are preparing for,” said ISU spokesman Jay Groves.

In addition to changes in guest policies at ISU’s residence halls, ISU police and Twin City police agencies have added extra officers for weekend duty and have more officers on standby. Officials have warned organizers they will be held responsible for the results of Fool’s Fest.

Normal police will have a “beefed up” schedule, said Police Chief Kent Crutcher. If necessary police will ask for help from Bloomington police, the McLean County Sheriff’s Department and the Illinois State Police.

“It means nothing that Budweiser has canceled the event, because it wasn’t their event to begin with,” Crutcher added.

Crutcher said he did not have an estimate on how much the extra patrols will add in overtime costs.

Caruso said his business initially got involved as a way to promote Budweiser’s drinking responsibly and related educational programs to college students and to help a family in need. Caruso said organizers told him that they wanted to use the event as a way to raise money for a family friend of organizer Austin Beaty.

Good intentions

Beaty, a junior from Harrisburg, said they started with good intentions to make Fool’s Fest a fun event to mark the last month of the semester. He hoped to work with local bars and liquor stores to get them to donate a portion of their profits from the weekend to raise money.

“We wanted to have a fun, positive weekend,” Beaty said.

Beaty said they turned the event over to City Beverage and Budweiser in the hopes of bringing in more help to keep the event under control.

On Sunday, university President Al Bowman sent an email to all ISU students warning them about the increased enforcement measures.

“While I understand and appreciate your desire to welcome the spring season, I want to make it clear that behaviors come with consequences,” Bowman said.

University administrators are concerned about this event as well as future years if it gains popularity such as those at SIU and U of I, Groves said.

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