Let’s take a moment to reflect on some of the positive aspects of Queen’s Homecoming. The men and women in law enforcement, as well as University and community volunteers did a fine job ensuring that the illegal Aberdeen street party was as safe as humanly possible. There were no burning cars, a significantly reduced amount of broken beer bottles on the ground, and 105 arrests for public intoxication, and open alcohol in a public place. Aberdeen swelled with well over 6,000 people, while side streets, the Hub, and downtown were as busy as they’ve ever been. Ultimately, Queen’s Homecoming translates into a pretty sizable cash injection for the local business community, but then there’s the involuntary loss assumed by the rest of the us.
Low estimates put the policing bill at $250,000 to cover the employment of officers from Kingston to Toronto and everywhere in between. Similarly huge bills have been registered in past years, in which case the University provides only partial compensation. Their argument is that the event is not sanctioned, nor is it solely attended by Queen’s students, and alumni. I witnessed first hand on Saturday night, the packs of tipsy highschool aged attendees, and minority of University of Western clad 20-somethings sprinkled into the mix. Still though, as a tax payer I would rather not be saddled with whatever costs Queen’s doesn’t want to cover. But then again, I’m not even sure they should be fronting the entire sum. I mean, if Kingston Frontenac fans go on a destructive post-game celebratory rampage in the downtown, are we going to demand that the team pays for policing and damages?
The other noteworthy negatives that comes out of the Aberdeen street party are the awful noise, disrespectful property damage, as well as the fact that the party is still going on. Neither the City, nor the University have been able to “solve” the event, as it’s popularity has grown each year since it first made waves in 2003. From alternative concerts to potential academic sanctions, nothing has worked because there hasn’t been a stern enough crack down or an attractive enough “other” option. Perhaps it’s time for Queen’s to create a massive beer garden with bands people would be stupid to avoid? Or maybe the Mayor or SONAG will authorize the use of tear gas next year?
Instead of heading directly to Aberdeen on Saturday, I went to the Grad Club with a few friends and took in an amazing concert featuring the Toronto Ska/Punk/Folk/Rock band Stop Drop n Skank. As we made our way to the Grad Club, we encountered legions of party goer’s who were converging on the ‘deen. While the party raged on, the concert that was not an alternative to the street party, impressed the small but energized crowd. Apres le show, we made our way home, passing through the chaos that is Aberdeen in an effort to compare it to past years. And again, although I believe that this year’s event was a success, it will always be seen by some as a complete and utter failure. With that in mind, we have nearly 365 days to talk about what should be done for Queen’s Homecoming 2009. Hopefully, all the talk will amount to some action. Check out pictures from my evening on Kingstonist’s Flickr.