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Oswego's Bridge Street Run: Bigger than ever, but is it better?

Cassandra Genua
Bridge Street Run 2013

Today is the last day of classes for the school year at SUNY Oswego, a day that some Oswego students treat like a holiday. That’s because every year Oswego’s Bridge Street explodes with hundreds of people for the bar crawl called the Bridge Street Run, also known as BSR. Participants wear white t-shirts that are signed by friends and fellow classmates as they go from bar to bar.

For some students the event has become a staple of their time at SUNY Oswego.

“I think it’s a tradition that has to stay, not only with the campus but with the community. I mean, that’s probably the best night for the bars. I mean, there are so many kids out. The streets are filled with students,” said senior Jenna Arcese.

BSR is a tradition that dates back to the 1960s. The school officially discourages the event, and yet it has grown even larger in the last couple of decades. The problems that come with BSR have grown as well. Disorderly conduct, public urination and open containers are the most common issues police deal with that day, as well as over-intoxication.

Assistant Chief of SUNY Oswego University Police Kevin Velzy says many of the participants may not even be Oswego students.

"It’s definitely gotten bigger. Whether bigger is better or worse depends on your perspective, but it’s definitely grown over the years, I think due in part to social media. We see people coming to BSR who are not students. They’re people from outside of town even, that come to the event just to be part of the festivities,” Velzy said.

Velzy also said that BSR didn’t always just happen on one day either. He says that groups of friends would do the pub crawl when they had the time, not just on the last day of classes. Sean Ohnmacht, the owner of Greene’s Ale House in Oswego, says that this change has caused many Oswego locals to look at the event negatively.

"It used to be a good tradition. Somewhere in the '90s when they changed it to one day, it kind of put a hamper on the town and it’s not as much fun as it used to be before they switched it to the way it is now," Ohnmacht said.

Such a high concentration of people means that bars increase their security for the day. While some participants aren’t as responsible as others, Ohnmacht says that if all goes well, BSR can be very profitable for Oswego businesses.

"As a business owner you can make more money that day, and as long as no toilets are broke or windows are broke, you can make a lot more money than you normally would on a Friday," he said.

The Bridge Street Run may be symbolic of the relationship between the campus and the town. The city of Oswego depends on students for business, but residents may not always like some of the issues that come with playing host to a college population.