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SUNY Oswego's Bridge Street Run alternative may be becoming its own tradition

Kevin Withus

Friday marks the last day of classes for SUNY Oswego students for the year, which means the return of the annual bar crawl, Bridge Street Run (BSR). While BSR is considered a long-time college tradition, SUNY Oswego is hoping to build its own tradition as an alternative.

The school created OzFest last year after three people overdosed on heroin during BSR in 2014, and the Oswego Common Council tried to ban the bar crawl. OzFest offers carnival events and a concert to students, creating competition to BSR participation.

Oswego City Police Lt. Zachary Misztal said this competition was noticeable in the number of people who attended BSR last year.

"Overall I would safely say there was a decline in major events, or criminal offenses for that matter," Misztal said. 

Although student body president Emily Nassir said OzFest was born out of concern over BSR, OzFest seems to be evolving.

"The original intent was only to compete with it and, while that’s still a factor, now we’re kind of moving to that we know it’s competing. It’s more of let’s make this an Oswego tradition," Nassir said.

Several Oswego businesses are even embracing OzFest because they saw a boost in business from the additional customers attracted by the concert. Yet others, like the shuttle service the D-Bus, took a hit. Owner Lee Walker said BSR 2015 was his least profitable year working the bar crawl.

"I mean there was still Bridge Street Run, but it was a smidgen of what it used to be," Walker said.

But as SUNY Oswego attempts to make OzFest an annual affair, it may not be just businesses they have to win over. Many students are disappointed with the concert's lineup this year, which is not as star-studded as the last, due to lowered ticket prices. Performers for OzFest 2016 include headliner Flo Rida, and opening acts Rich Homie Quan and DeJ Loaf.

The Oswegonian, the school's newspaper, polled more than 500 students on Twitter recently and found about 70 percent said they had no plans to attend OzFest.

The lowered ticket prices were an attempt to encourage better attendance, but this move may have backfired. Many students, such as senior Alicia Stentin, said they will be taking part in BSR this year, rather than attending the concert.

"A lot of people said if the concert was a different weekend [they would go], but because it’s BSR, people want to have fun with their friends instead," Stentin said.

Although ticket sales are dramatically down from last year's OzFest, some students, like Andy Gomez actually prefer this year’s lineup and the lowered ticket prices.

"I find this lineup is better than last year because these artists are still making music today, and last year’s artists don’t make music anymore," Gomez said.

OzFest may need some tweaking to get the outcome desired but, for now, many members of the Oswego community see it as a great alternative to those who do not wish to participate in the bar crawl.

OzFest will take place this Friday on the SUNY Oswego campus, while BSR will be held on the city streets of Oswego.

WRVO Intern Kaylyn Izzo and other SUNY Oswego journalism students contributed to this report.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.