Kingston should capitalize on Queen’s party culture, not criticize it

It’s time to turn street parties into fun, sanctioned events

Image by: Herbert Wang
Oliver proposes a country-wide student festival to appease the city of Kingston and satisfy students.

For better or worse, Queen’s has a reputation for its party culture. Instead of trying to shed it, Queen’s and Kingston should take the opportunity to capitalize on it by sanctioning the street party.

Street parties in the University District happen every year during orientation, Homecoming, and St. Patrick’s Day. Each year, police direct students to avoid congregating for large, noisy parties and each year, students don’t heed the advice—by midday the mob on Aberdeen St. is declared a nuisance party and shut down. The cycle leaves everyone less than satisfied. The community condemns the rowdy partying while students condemn excessive enforcement.

The City of Kingston wishes it could spend its precious policing resources elsewhere. Queen’s community members have advocated that the problem must be solved through carrots instead of sticks.

Consider how harm reduction approaches to preventing unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections don’t demand abstinence or shame young people for having sex, but rather are sex positive and advocate for safe sex. Similarly, preventing unsafe street partying is accomplished not by abolishing unavoidable parties, but by providing a safe environment for students.

University community members and Queen’s alumni recognize sanctioned alternatives to street parties providing the same festive and interactive atmosphere can be greatly beneficial.

Before the pandemic, Queen’s partnered with the AMS to organize the ReUnion Street Festival. The event featured street food, performances such as a live concert, and a photo booth. Moreover, it supported the City of Kingston.

Though that initiative was a great start, it’s time to think bigger. Instead of hosting a party for just the Queen’s community, the University can expand beyond Homecoming and take the opportunity to celebrate all students across the province and country. One avenue for this could be a Kingston Canadian University Festival.

Kingston is a great place to host such an event. The city is already a hub of festivities for students coming in from other universities. Geographically, the city sits at the midpoint of Canada’s largest cities—Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal. As Canada’s first capital city, Kingston isn’t only home to one of the oldest Canadian universities, but it’s one of the first universities to enroll women. As such, having a nationwide celebration in Kingston holds immense symbolic value.

The event would exist separately from the existing Homecoming activities for Queen’s alumni and would be targeted towards current students.

Many cities have vibrant festivals attracting people from across the country. Toronto hosts the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) and the Caribbean Carnival; Montreal entertains Osheaga, and Calgary has the Stampede. While festivals like the CNE are more broadly themed, other festivals like Caribana celebrate a specific community. Organizing a function for the post-secondary students of Canada would fit right in.

Street parties can be safe. Every year, scores of large outdoor events see hundreds if not thousands of people celebrate in cities all over Canada—Kingston included—without any of the trouble seen on Aberdeen Street.

This year, Western University’s Homecoming street party went largely without incident. Police had a strong presence, but students took the initiative to organize activities for charity, including speed dating and a pull-up challenge. As Queen’s students invested in the friendly Queen’s-Western rivalry will tell you, Queen’s can do anything better than Western.

Even alcohol-centered events can be successful. In Kingston, the YGK Craft Beer Fest takes place annually each summer with beer, food, and live entertainment.

Of course, YGK Craft Beer Fest charges a price for admission. However, having to buy a ticket rarely stops someone from going to a party, festival, or nightclub, and attendees will flock to events if they sound enticing enough. Besides, if students party despite the threat of a $2,000 fine, a $20 ticket shouldn’t deter them.

Aberdeen is a small street in a residential neighbourhood, so the revelers need to move elsewhere. There are several sizeable parks in the vicinity—including City Park, Victoria Park, and the Kingston Memorial Centre—that can host festivities instead.

The event can happen in one place or be spread around multiple venues. Either way, it can include capacity limits, and security screening at admission points to reduce crowding and ensure safety. Alcohol can be served in a controlled manner by licensed local businesses.

Efforts could be made to contain outdoor partying to these designated sites. In the rest of the University District, the existing rules under the University District Safety Initiative (UDSI) would be enforced.

Within the proposed festival grounds, illegal and dangerous behaviours such as climbing rooftops and excessive alcohol consumption wouldn’t be tolerated—but so long as students aren’t being physically hurt, interfering with emergency services, or inciting hateful or unlawful activity, they should be allowed to drink, shout, sing, and dance as much as they want. There’s no need to hand out a penalty for public drinking unless someone is behaving inappropriately.

The event could be beneficial for Kingston as well. It’s an opportunity for increased tourism that supports the local economy. Though some businesses have experienced concerns with rowdy groups, this can be alleviated by setting up more outdoor food options on festival grounds.

Aside from eating at local restaurants, out-of-town students will likely visit nearby destinations, such as the Kingston Penitentiary or the Thousand Islands. With revenues from the festival helping to pay for security, the burden on Kingston Police and taxpayers would be eased too.

Ultimately, the right kind of organized event, with appropriate but not overbearing safety measures, is the best chance at ending unsanctioned street parties on Aberdeen St.

Kingston’s post-secondary institutions are a defining part of this city. Let’s embrace it in a bold way. Hopefully, the idea of a Kingston Canadian University Festival offers a novel pathway towards a better arrangement for the municipality, residents, Queen’s University, and students alike.

Oliver is a second-year Law student.


party culture, police, University

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Comments (15)

  • Simply wanted to mention that in the wa-a-a-y-back, Queen’s did sanction major concerts
    on Saturday nights in the Bruce Wing parking lot and other locations. Served as a pressure-cooker release valve where smoking, drinkng and hijinks could be enjoyed mostly without
    fear of arrest or fine. These days I’d suggest Green Day at Richardson Stadium ;>)

  • There is a lo-o-o-ng history of town-gown conflict over street parties in the student district around the university. While at Queen’s, my friends and I enjoyed the occasional ‘blow out’ but not to the detriment of our neighbours. We stayed inside.
    Parties of the size now seen on Aberdeen in Kingston (and around other universities) are relatively recent (perhaps starting in the 1990s?). And the ReUnion festivities are indeed a good example of alternative events to ‘distract’ people. By all means build on that.
    What you are proposing might be the nugget of a useful idea. However, until students demonstrate they can be entrusted to have parties at even larger venues, surely you can see why no one outside Queen’s is interested in supporting it. Trust will be earned by obeying the current restrictions. Sorry, that’s life.
    Go ahead and plan other events, just accept that not everyone thinks many of these events are harmless fun. Too much history exists to make it otherwise. Put in the work, and you will do just fine.

  • Well as a kingstonian I have witnessed the abuse the destruction and mostly the disrespect! I had to take my young child with diabetes down to emergency one night during one of these sanctioned parties. As we arrived I had to wade through vomit and Queens students drunk and proped up agaisnt walls and as a tax payer in this city because of the over abundance of alcohal related ppl ( students) being seen for there own choice of indulging we had to wait and wait and deal with obsurities of ppl that are considered adults.The disrespect to the police force the paramedics the hospital personal and the community has to STOP. Sancationing a street party will not teach them respect of the city they only come to for school hahaha . If I had my way instead of ticketing these students I would be expelling them and send them back home to their parents to learn respect and let them deal with them instead of just sutting and writing a check for the ongoing fines that are handed out. This is my city and Queens district and surronding area is off limits because of the ongoing disrespectful young adults who dont care for this city!

  • You need rethinking this fella it would bring more of the same individuals as the ones that are already on Aberdeen St. Go back 15 to 20 years ago and see what happened saying it would be contained in one area / park is near sighted, it would expand to the whole ghetto area maybe more. In past it brought young party revelers from all over Ontario, parts of Quebec and Northern US states.
    You should rethink your approach to the issue as some of it does make use of good ideas but youngsters today are short on respect and being responsible.

  • I prefer the crackheads over the Queens students or professors. If anything we should completely shutdown all party culture. We shouldn’t be promoting degenerate behavior just because a person is young. Loud, obnoxious, violent, dirty, and extraordinarily entitled, these fuckers can get bent.

  • None of the major issues are actually addressed in this opinion piece, making it close to useless. The assumption here seems to be that ‘sanctioned events’ will deter street partying, yet nowhere in this text does our friend Oliver why and how that would happen. On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence showing that these events don’t stop the issues at hand (being the costs and disorderly conduct), as there are already plenty of sanctioned Hoco events. I personally don’t know anyone who’s ACTUALLY interested in these sanctioned events. The whole point of homecoming parties is that they’re unsanctioned!! Moreover, the unsanctioned nature of these parties has nothing to do with the costs and disorderly conduct.
    What exactly would change if this moved to Victoria Park? I’m guessing either one of these things would happen; a) students wouldn’t show up because partying sober with Kingston families isn’t exactly what they have in mind, b) students would show up without altering their alcohol consumption, meaning that disorderly conduct and destruction would still occur. And the costs? How much lawn is actually left in the yards near William & Aberdeen? Doing that to Victoria Park isn’t exactly a cost-friendly alternative.
    Do I have a quick solution? Not exactly. Quick easy solutions don’t exist. However, we need responsibility and accountability, something both Queen’s students & admin have failed at. First, Queen’s needs to be a lot more selective with the students they accept in undergrad. In my opinion, the university should start by rejecting all Ontario students who attended & graduated from PRIVATE secondary schools. This would show a desire to take a firm stance against PAYING YOUR WAY IN/OUT of things. Second of all, we should embrace our traditions and do the exact opposite of what you suggested. Traveling students are even more likely to act disorderly from a logical standpoint due to the lack of in-group spirit. This is also confirmed by statistics. Students should embrace in-group belonging in order to let outsiders know that stepping into our ground will be a painful & humiliating experience. Perhaps that would actually revive the possibility of organizing sanctioned events that students actually want to attend. Let the wildest, most politically incorrect signs & chants be seen & heard at Richardson stadium and then maybe students will start going to football games again. The Irish fans during Euro 2016 made a name for themselves, as being the drunkest, craziest, most intense fans of the tournament, yet they also treated police with respect and were often seen cleaning up the cities afterwards.
    The hostility at the city of Kingston and the AMS’ strategy of diverting the issues to the marginalization of poor students, I think, is a symptom of a true lack of community spirit. If we were truly a community, the guys throwing bottles wouldn’t finish the day with working legs.

  • This is a great idea if we lived in paradise where everyone was rational. The issue is the entitlement of students and the other non-university types who feel competelled to drink to excess and cause damage.
    By-the-way as an old Engineer grad I have been on both sides of the situation however tomes were different. We partied well and drank equally as well but we had respect for property and authority.p

  • As a local resident of kingston I think this idea is perfect put them all in one spot and let them have fun.its only a couple nights per year I am sure it will not kill us to deal with bit of noise and the clean up would be much safer and easier to control, let them have fun in a safe secure environment. I would even volunteer for such an event. This is a no Brainer idea..

  • I completely agree. I’ve long said if they can sanction festivals downtown, they can sanction this one too. It would change the entire culture and vibe around it. It’s not going to go away, so why not make it better and beneficial to more people. 👏👏

  • I have the greatest solution. How about queens students take there party to there football field and we lock them all up in there for the weekend. Let queens let them party on the football field they have and let them simply there own policing and clean up at there expense and the city can save thousands of dollars.

  • As a Queens Grad I am aware of the sanctioned parties in the past and often worked at them. Was is not being said is that those parties, at times, ended and the parties moved to University Ave. What I would suggest is we support Oliver’s idea, maybe have him let us know what neighbour’s hood/city he grew up in and have the sanctioned party near that location. Take the money spent on policing and bus the students/participants to that location and party all night. I am sure he would agree his family wouldn’t mind. As being someone who grew up on Earl St it works for me.

  • I went to Queens from 1978-1982. In 1981 we had a street party on University Avenue with 7,000 people. the police put a barricade at univeristy and union and another one at university and johnson. we partied till 3 am. we cleaned up the broken glass early the next morning. a few idiots did some damage. no big deal.

    university students have partied since the beginning of time. it happened long before we were born and it will happen long after we are all dead. It will never stop. So start thinking about ways to make it safe.

    there are real problems in the world. Wars. Starvation. Trump. Republicans. Street parties are not one of the major problems on this planet. Get some perspective.


  • This is such a long-winded article just to set up a mediocre joke. KCUF Fest, huh? Gee, I sure do hope nobody writes that backwards.

  • a lot of negative comments about queens students. You really think this town would automatically improve without the university?

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