CHAMPAIGN – Some changes are planned for an annual informal summer gathering of University of Illinois fraternity and sorority alumni.
The "Greek Reunion," which has occurred each year for at least 20 years, drew up to 10,000 people at its peak, but attendance has declined in recent years.
It's being called "Reunion Weekend" this year because University of Illinois officials say the event is not sponsored by the Greek system on campus. This also will allow broader community participation, according to Champaign police Sgt. Scott Friedlein.
The smaller crowds in recent years, along with construction projects that have torn up many of the streets and sidewalks in Campustown, prompted some changes in plans this year, Friedlein said.
"What we saw were declining crowds, people reluctant to pay cover charges to get in," Friedlein said. "There is also a lot of construction going on on Sixth Street. It's all torn up."
For the past two years, a "Reunion Street Dance" event was sponsored by Kam's and C.O. Daniels, two Campustown taverns. Daniel Street between Sixth and Wright streets was blocked off and participants got wristbands to enter the enclosed area.
"This allows us to transition to a more community-oriented event with participation by all the businesses in the community," Friedlein said.
The "Greek Reunion" grew out of an unofficial ritual originally designed for members of Greek organizations to gather and clean up their fraternities and sororities and to plan activities for the coming school year, Friedlein said. It always happened on the first weekend after July 4, he said.
The crowds last year were light – about 2,000 on Friday and 4,000 on Saturday. In 2001, the Reunion Street Dance drew about 2,700 people that Friday night and nearly 5,000 that Saturday night. That was down from 5,000 on the Friday night and 6,000 for the Saturday night in 2000.
The number of people arrested for various crimes – mostly minors in possession of alcohol – has also declined in recent years, Friedlein said.
"We don't anticipate that many arrests this year," he said.
While Champaign police will not be closing off any streets this year, they will have extra officers on patrol this weekend, along with officers assisting from the University of Illinois and Illinois secretary of state police departments, he said. Underage drinking and drinking in public will be key issues.
"The plan we've used in past years is to have enough officers available to cover the entire area." Friedlein said. "The officers will be looking for issues of public safety as a primary focus."
City and campus officials will encourage people to visit various businesses in the community and not focus on one small area.
"If it all works out well, it will allow everybody to have a good time and to be safe," Friedlein said.
You can reach Steve Bauer at (217) 351-5318 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.