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Fredonia revelry leads to 52 arrests

FREDONIA – The end-of-semester spring party known as Fred Fest in the Village of Fredonia technically was cancelled earlier this year.

But old traditions die hard, and thousands of SUNY Fredonia students and out-of-town visitors made certain the revelry continued as usual this past weekend.

“I really think that this year was no different from years past as far as the level of activity among visitors and the level of activity by the police,” said Fredonia Police Chief Bradley C. Meyers.

Law enforcement authorities arrested 52 people on 96 charges and responded to 213 incident calls related to Fred Fest weekend partying, Meyers said.

For decades, the campus sponsored a combination of concerts, picnics and other events that became known as Fred Fest. But over the years, the annual alcohol-free festival on campus helped spawn a parallel tradition off campus of house parties, binge drinking and general rowdiness that college administrators worried had become too wild.

In February, in an email to students, the college said it would no longer host Fred Fest concerts and picnics. And the college banned out-of-town guests inside dormitories during the first weekend in May, when Fred Fest traditionally was held. The email also asked students to “avoid hosting or attending large house parties in the village.”

But after the email, some students set up Twitter and Facebook accounts to promote Fred Fest. In interviews, many Fredonia students said they had little doubt the annual blowout would continue unimpeded.

“I understand it’s hard on the community. As much as they want to stop it, it’s never going to stop,” said Stephanie Ashodian, a sophomore from Greece, a suburb of Rochester. “It’s just part of the college experience. It’s always going to be a tradition.”

Meyers said social media again helped attract a crush of visitors to the village, including some people who had no connection to the college or to Fredonia students.

The police arrested 43 people on 74 charges in 2014. Meyers attributed this year’s higher numbers to a greater police presence.

“I would equate it to the fact we had additional people on,” he said.

Chautauqua County sheriff’s deputies and state troopers assisted with increased patrols.

Most of the arrests involved out-of-towners, said Meyers, who estimated that fewer than 10 of the people charged were Fredonia students.

The charges included burglary, driving while intoxicated and motor vehicle theft, as well as open container and public urination violations. One woman who was intoxicated and found to be in possession of cocaine broke a window inside the police station, Meyers said.

The police frequently broke up outdoor house parties that had become too large, with revelers spilling into the streets. But for the most part, students complied with the police, Meyers said.

While there were several calls for emergency medical services, none of the injuries was serious, he said.

Meyers said he remains hopeful the college’s move ultimately will lead to smaller crowds in the village in future years.