An old tradition doesn’t appeal to students as much as it did in the past (plus: college officials just hate the event and the city has banned it)
By Stefan Yablonski
There was a time when the Port City was awash with bars.
As the spring semester drew to a close at SUNY Oswego hundreds of students — as well as others — would take part in a pub crawl.
The Bridge Street Run, which isn’t sanctioned or endorsed by the college, has been celebrated at the end of the spring semester for decades.
The annual unofficial right of passage for many college students is held each year as the final semester comes to a close. The students, some of whom are under the legal drinking age, begin on the east end of the city and work their way back to the west side campus while stopping for drinks at bars along the route.
Many students take part in large groups of friends; several wear white T-shirts and have friends, bartenders and liquor store clerks autograph them to record their sojourn.
The past few years, however, not so much.
“The Bridge Street Run has been going on for decades, but has certainly diminished in popularity in the last few years. The college created OzFest in 2015 to offer students an alternative to going on the Bridge Street Run. With smaller numbers participating in the BSR, the issues and problems associated with large numbers of students going from bar to bar on our main corridor have declined,” said Robert A. Corradino, Oswego mayor. “The overtime for our police department is not as large as in previous years due to this event. In addition, the number of bars that encourage or that are available has also been reduced. With less people participating and few bars available, the problems associated with this event have certainly lessened to a certain degree.”
“It’s nothing more than a drunken brawl that invites dozens of undesirables into our neighborhoods,” said Corradino, who was city’s Third Ward councilor in 2006.
Ten years ago, May 2014, the Oswego Common Council voted unanimously to ban the Bridge Street Run.
The council also sought restitution from the college for the city’s overtime expenses incurred by the city’s DPW, police and fire departments related to the Bridge Street Run.
In 2014, the same night as the Bridge Street Run, a man was airlifted to a Syracuse hospital after being struck by a trolley bus. A young woman also injured in the incident was treated at Oswego Hospital. And there were three heroin overdoses. One of the students died on campus. The others recovered.
Authorities didn’t link any of the incidents directly to the Bridge Street Run.
The following year, to combat participation in the Bridge Street Run, SUNY Oswego’s Student Association Programming Board and the Student Association created OzFest.
From 2 to 6 p.m. the event featured free activities such as bungee jumping, stuff-a-buddy, a mechanical bull and a dunk tank booth. Concerts were also scheduled.
The college’s Auxiliary Services offered free food.
OzFest and the concert were reportedly successful in reducing the number of participants in Bridge Street Run dramatically.
Stefan Yablonski, class of 1977, never took part in a Bridge Street Run.