Looking ahead to Homecoming’s future

University and city weigh in on possible directions for street party

Councillor Steve Garrison wants Queen’s to take responsibility for the Aberdeen Street party.
Councillor Steve Garrison wants Queen’s to take responsibility for the Aberdeen Street party.
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Homecoming 2007 may have just ended last weekend, but planning for future Homecomings has already begun. Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane said planning will start for Homecoming 2008 after Homecoming 2007 events are reviewed. “It’s a year-round process,” he said. “Those [plans] began immediately after this year’s weekend and will continue to next year.”

Although no major incidents occurred at this year’s Homecoming, Deane said the issue of the Aberdeen Street party extends past the realm of the number of charges, injuries and tickets given out each year.

“It’s a compound of a number of things, like the climate in the city and level of patience in the community,” he said. “We still have a problem. While it’s somewhat controlled, the fact that it costs so much to control is a serious public issue.”

Deane said the administration wants to stress the distinction between Homecoming and the Aberdeen Street party.

“The Aberdeen Street party is something distinct, and it’s not something we support.”

Deane said the administration has considered looking into throwing a contained street party licensed for alcohol and a limited number of people.

“It’s possible we might entertain the idea in future years of a licensed party,” he said. “Whether such a thing would ever occur would require the support of the city administration.”

Deane said he’s not sure if the city would support licensing such an event.

“While they do sanction a number of events to close down the streets during the year, I can’t say whether or not the city or the council would look favourably upon such an event.”

Deane said the administration will consider a number of options for Homecoming 2008, including the possibility of moving the weekend to a date later in the year.

“I think the University is going to have serious discussions about the advisability of holding Homecoming at a later date. Certainly moving the date has been a possibility. There are a number of factors to be considered. However, I don’t think there is a single time of year that would be better.” Deane said cancelling Homecoming is a possibility, but it would require the approval of a number of university officials.

“Everything is possible,” he said. “That would be a very major decision, made not only by the principal and vice-principals, but would require the full support of the board and alumni association.”

Deane said it’s unlikely Homecoming will be cancelled altogether.

“It’s somewhat unlikely,” he said. “It would all depend on the difficulty of the problem and whether or not we feel the problem is responding to the strategies we’ve put in place.”

Although the Aberdeen Street party has garnered national media attention and attracts thousands of people on a yearly basis, Deane said he thinks the party will decline in popularity as years go by.

“There have often been celebrations in the student housing area. They’ve lasted five years and have declined and then in time other events happen,” he said. “The Aberdeen party has seen its day, and I believe we’re seeing a declining interest in it.”

The number of party-goers crowding onto Aberdeen Street during the Homecoming 2007 weekend may have declined, but Kingscourt-Strathcona District Councillor Steve Garrison thinks the University event should be cancelled altogether.

“It’s time to end Homecoming. I think it needs to be moved to the dead of winter, or cancelled for a couple of years,” he said. “Once people have discarded the notion of the current Homecoming, it can be reinvented in a different form with less emphasis on partying and more on alumni.”

Garrison said although there’s a distinction between Queen’s Homecoming and the Aberdeen Street party, the latter is a direct result of the former. “Queen’s tries to disassociate themselves from the events, but the two are linked,” he said. “It’s not very productive to continue the weak argument that the two are separate. Queen’s has to accept that the two go hand in hand and find a solution that is going to impact both.”

Garrison said the idea of a University-sanctioned licensed street party sounds like a good idea in principle, but he would have to review a detailed proposal before pledging his support to the idea.

“Before I commit, I’d have to see what is being proposed, and ascertain how likely it is that, based on the plan, it could be contained.”

Garrison said if planned and executed accordingly, a licensed party could be a viable solution to the Aberdeen Street party.

“If some kind of plan materializes that ensures it’s contained on the Queen’s property and is strictly a Queen’s event, I definitely think that that would be a great alternative to what happens currently.”

Logistics and licences

It’s not as simple as closing off a street and charging admission. Here are the steps Queen’s would have to take to throw a licensed street party:

  • Queen’s would have to apply for a Special Occasion Permit.
  • For outdoor events, the permit-holder must write to the local municipality, police, and fire and health departments informing them of the event at least 21 days in advance.
  • To be eligible for a Special Occasion permit, Queen’s Homecoming would fall into the community festival event category. To qualify as a community festival event, Homecoming would need a city council vote or a delegated municipal official’s decision. Applicants must be a registered charity, non-profit corporation, or association organized to promote charitable, educational, religious or community objectives.
  • The licensed area must be clearly defined and separated from the unlicensed area. A sign indicating that liquor is not permitted past a certain point, an informed staff, or security personnel are all acceptable.
Source: agco.on.ca

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