Monday, October 24th, 2016

Riversplash drowns in a sea of troubles


The Riversplash festival is no more.  Organizers announced today that the festival this year was the last.

Bad weather that hit the festival for several years and reduced revenue were the main causes of the cancellation, said Marsha Sehler, a member of the Milwaukee Riverwalk District Board that staged RiverSplash.

“The weather was really rotten, and all the planning you do doesn’t help if the weather doesn’t cooperate,” she said.

RiverSplash also was the scene of a shooting and bottle-throwing incidents in 2008 that required increased security for the then-gateless festival. That year, city officials including Ald. Robert Bauman, Mayor Tom Barrett and Police Chief Edward Flynn held a news conference blaming the violence on heavy drinking by fest-goers during the event and after its closing.

Sehler said that while crowd control problems were not the primary reason for canceling RiverSplash, “the fact is that we increased our security around the festival, and that added to the economics of it. That made it harder for us to manage financially.”

Brian Fraley of the MacIver Institute reminds us he was there two years ago during the time of troubles:

My wife and I went to RiverSplash on Friday and we didn’t enjoy the festival the way I had in previous years. I was struck by how many ‘parents’ were out there with kids in strollers way after 10pm. Hundreds of them. Then, around 10:30pm, the streets really became crowded with hundreds of amped up teenagers and young ‘men’ seemingly in their early 20s crushing their way through the crowds, pushing, and screaming and ignoring the bands, instead creating their own ‘entertainment.’

A lot of the festival goers who were on third street with me, trying to enjoy one of the many bands who were playing, said to each other ‘let’s get out of here before something happens.’

We left around 11:00.

That was Friday. That the violence escalated Saturday is, sadly, not a surprise to me.

When young parents are so irresponsible as to have their toddlers out so late at an event like this, is it surprising that these kids, ten, fifteen years later come to similar events and display the same self-indulgence and lack of respect for those around them?

Neither tighter restrictions on the sale of alcohol nor the deployment of more police officers will solve the problem of bad parenting and the resulting chaos that ensues.

Police/security drawing the line on what is and is not acceptable behavior earlier in the evening may have helped temporarily defuse the situation, or it may have not. Either way, it’s better than waiting for something to happen.

We learned a lesson this week, however.

My wife and I won’t be going to uncontrolled, free festivals in Milwaukee anymore. The bands were great, but it’s not worth the risk.

Will this change RiverSplash and other events like Bastille Days? Should it?

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