Today’s Athens Fests Calmer Than in Past Years

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Mill Fest 2017

This weekend kicks off fest season in Athens with Milliron Fest beginning Friday followed by Mill Fest on Saturday. 

Fest season has grown to be a long standing annual tradition in Athens,  popular among Ohio University students since the early 1960s.

During those early years, Spring marked the start of large outdoor musical festivals in the city. In the early 1980s the fests took on the look that we see today.

Then, music festivals were held on the intramural fields located on Mill Street. Crowds of OHIO students and Athens residents enjoyed local bands that would play throughout the day.

The scene wasn’t much different from the Mill Fest of today, drawing thousands of party goers.

When the drinking age was raised to 21, the outdoor concerts gave way to house parties.

Outdoor concerts during the spring fests never completely died out.  In 2002, Number Fest began, marking the end of fest season and drawing in large numbers of OU students as well as students from out of town.

As Fest Season grew, city officials struggled to keep up with growing crowds. Over the years, the city passed ordinances to limit the influx of those attending parties.
Police Officers at Mill Fest 2017

One example of Fest getting out of hand took place in 2009 at Palmer Fest where the crowd grew to about 8,000 people. Authorities dubbed it a riot as attendees set furniture on fire and assaulted firefighters who attempted to put out the flames.  Riot police were called in to deal with the crowd.

After that, the city passed a number of safety ordinances, including one banning house concerts.

The following year at Palmer Fest 2010, riot police were called in again as the crowd got rowdy towards the evening.  Scores of people were arrested.

In recent years, the fests have been relatively peaceful, partly due to city and University efforts. 

After this weekend, fest season continues with Congo Fest the weekend of March 23rd. The season will wrap up with Palmer Fest and Palmer Place Fest during the weekend of April 13. Number Fest is scheduled for the weekend of April 20.