The University of Virginia Magazine titles its Retrospect article “The Rise and Fall of Easters.”
I guess that is one way to look at it, because after the 12-alarm warning that was the 1975 Mad Bowl party, the Easters Weekend was clamped down and ultimately choked out, in spite of considerable student protest.
Was the party bad? No, it was great! But considering that “the party school’s ultimate party” had drawn 15,000 in its inaugural year, it was a certainty that exponential math would subsequently apply. Welcome to Spring Break Charlottesville! The University was verklempt.
There were issues of course. Dean of Students Bob Canevari called me into his office a few days later to say that the University had been contacted by the Attorney General’s office because it was discovered that huge quantities of beer had been sold to minors and sold without an ABC license. Then he laughed, and said that University attorneys pointed out that if the ABC Board sued the University, it would be essentially the state suing itself. So the matter was dropped. This is why Canevari was Dean of Students for something like 25 years.
And yes, students washing off mud in the dormitory showers caused back-ups that flooded whole dorm floors. And there were several dozen cases of “grain blindness” seen in the University emergency room during the afternoon. Kids being kids…
However Associate Dean Chester Titus wrote to me, “I know you received accolades for the job you did before and during Easters, but I want to give you one more. Your efforts to inform the community and to organize in preparation for the weekend were, as far as I was concerned, highly unusual. You did a good job, and I believe it is borne out by the relatively few incidents during a weekend that had all the potential for a disaster. You certainly deserve a commendation.”
Still, University President Hereford formed a Commission to examine the future direction of the weekend, stating,“I have been either a witness or participant of Easter Week for 35 years and I believe that the event this year went beyond the bounds of reasonable behavior.” I guess it is our bad luck that the President’s home overlooks Madison Bowl.
My term as President of the IFC carried me into 1976…..and I did what all good leaders do when faced with diminishing returns. I cut bait and ran.
I am looking at a Cavalier Daily article where I am quoted as saying the IFC would be taking a de-emphasized role in Easters, and instead concentrate on IFC Weekend, three weeks later. I congratulated the Black Student Alliance, Student Council, Student Union and Office of Student Affairs for their new role in organizing Easters. Suckers.
And then the frats took “our” 1976 party off-grounds….beyond the view of the President’s mansion.
“Their” 1976 Easters was held in the “Cage”….. a windowless basketball practice facility. I was not there, but I expect it was like a 2011 high school prom. You know what I mean…
That didn’t solve the Easters problem….which was the out-of-control drinking, combined now with driving. Granted, 1976 was still early when it came to clamping down on drinking and driving….but potential for disaster of a different kind was there. Stopping the parties in the countryside was important..and it did happen. No one was killed, that I heard of, but essentially Easters was cancelled.
And then by 1982, the other major party weekends on UVa’s historic social calendar, Openings and Mid-Winters, also went the way of Easters.
A very funny thing happened in the 1990s. I was invited back to UVa to participate in a Career Day panel. I decided to take Susan into the old IFC office to show her what it was like. We walked in, and lo, there was a full meeting going of all of the frat presidents. I tried to excuse myself, just explaining that I was an old IFC president showing my wife around. The President welcomed me to stay, and asked my name. I told him, and felt the air go out of the room.
Shocked that my name would mean anything to these guys, I found out that the legend that was Easters had grown with its banishment. They actually thought that the Mad Bowl Easters had been a university tradition since Jefferson – rudely yanked by the administration. The fact that there was ONE, and only ONE Mad Bowl Easters party has been lost in revisionism. (…disclosure: in several prior years, abutting fraternities had run hoses to Mad Bowl, creating giant mud slides down its banks…but these were extensions of the individual fraternity parties that spilled mayhem up and down the streets, and not a Mad Bowl party)
There were some nice things that came from it for me. Katie Couric, a “cub reporter” (as she put it) for the Cavalier Daily interviewed me. She remains a friend. It turns out one of the observers at the neighborhood association meetings was Dean Snook, head of the Darden Graduate Business School. He offered me admission….right there after one of the meetings I chaired. I took the business school boards, just in case, and scored well. I didn’t go. That’s a whiff.
But now, I get to wax poetically about the “good old days.” Not coincidently, this whole episode sent me on a path of concert and event promotion, which landed me a job with Dick Clark. That took me to Lenox and now we have the inn. It started with a beer party.
Party photos: Scott Barrow, Lenox MA