City of Waterloo won't put up party tent for St. Patrick's Day

There will be no city-sanctioned party tent on March 17.

Door-to-door campaign will inform MacGregor Albert neighbourhood about safety, respect during annual festiviti

Revellers turned out in the thousands to celebrate St. Patrick's Day on Ezra Avenue in Waterloo on Mar. 17. (Jane van Koeverden/CBC)

Waterloo is doing away with a tent on Seagram Drive that was meant to keep St. Patrick's Day partiers from crowding onto Ezra Avenue during the annual March 17 festivities.

The city said the decision not to have the tent party this year came after a "close review," including community feedback and information from partners including police, the universities and provincial authorities.

"We realized that we could not quantify effectively whether the tented event on Seagram actually did, in fact, relieve the numbers on Ezra Street," said Megan Harris, a spokeswoman for the city. "We also had a growing concern around the promotion that was taking place for the tented event and the growth and legs it had outside of the Waterloo community and the numbers it was drawing from outside our community."

Harris said that the city found out that a large number of attendees were coming from outside the region. Harris said they determined that by looking at social media and video posts made at the time, as well as asking attendees at last year's event.

While there will be no tent party, city officials say they don't expect the party will stop.

Instead, to curb the number of revellers who hit the streets to celebrate, the city and community partners, including leaders from a number of university fraternities and sororities, will be going door-to-door in the MacGregor Albert neighbourhood on the evening of March 8, "spreading a message of safety and respect."

"Students play a large role in creating the vibrant community we are all so proud of, and we want to ensure respect for both the neighbourhood and their fellow residents continues on this day and all year long," Mark Dykstra, the city's commissioner of community services, said in a release.

Party has grown

The annual St. Patrick's Day tradition has grown from house parties and celebrations at the pubs on the two university campuses to thousands of revellers hitting the streets and blocking off Ezra Avenue, a small street of mostly student rentals.

Waterloo Regional Police keep watch over the crowd in the party tent. (Waterloo Regional Police Service/Twitter)

The on-street party is illegal and in the city's release Tuesday, Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin stressed any drinking on the street is illegal.

"Our message is clear, firm and fair. We expect participants to behave safely, obey the law and respect the community we live in," he said.

In 2014,police seized 4,400 beers from a Waterloo home before a St. Patrick's Day party got underway. The unofficial student group members were allegedly selling tickets to the party through social media, police said.

Students already planning cleanup

David McMurray, Wilfrid Laurier University's vice president of student affairs, said the school does not condone St. Patrick's Day activities that conflict with academic priorities and responsibilities.

"Our student leaders are strongly encouraging all Laurier Golden Hawks to be responsible," McMurray said in the statement.

Student groups will also be making in-class presentations about safety, while the Laurier EcoHawks and the Waterloo Crime Awareness Team will perform a neighbourhood clean up on March 18.


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