The Elktonfests in 1997 and 1998 were BIG. The latter -- that was also known as “Spring Fling” -- was the one that became infamous.
I’ll let the contributors’ recollections explain, but my three notes going into this are, 1) The house(s) and backyard(s) they’re talking about are the ones separated from Dickinson by the train tracks, 2) As far as I understand it, there were no permits obtained for any Elktonfest, and 3) Some of the recollections are seemingly inconsistent, but perfectly understandable due to the chaos that was Elktonfest '98!
“I never lived on Elkton Road, but some of my closest friends lived in the Elktonfest house, and I helped organize it. I did more for the first one in '97; handing out flyers, making sure the kegs weren’t stolen, worked the door for a while, too.
The backyard was HUGE. We had a stage set up for bands and everything. Everyone was there. You name it. There was probably around a thousand people there at one point. I might be exaggerating, but it seemed that huge.
Well, Elktonfest '98. I don’t think there was any poison gas, but I do think there was one helicopter. I left right before it happened, but I was at the house afterwards. There was a small riot…not really a riot, just everyone running away from the cops. There was no beatings or poison gas, etc. Definitely the biggest party I went to in my 4.5 years.”
- Gary L, UD '98
“At the Elktonfests they had U-Hauls full of kegs, and if you brought your own tap you and your friends got your own keg. All for the cover charge of like $10 to cover the beer and bands. I think I drank an entire bottle of Sambuca. People from all walks of life were there, and there were never any fights between students. I saw people from the Hippie crowd, honors dorms, sports teams…all they wanted to do was enjoy the music.
I followed The Vybe religiously. The cops showed up at Elktonfest in Spring of '98, right before The Vybe was supposed to play. I still say no riot would've occurred if they had just waited until The Vybe finished. The next few years, the people who lived there tried to have another big fest, but the cops always warned them against it, and people stayed away. So the '99 and 2000 Elktonfests turned out to be small gatherings…but we still partied until sunrise on a regular basis.”
- Danielle, UD '00
“The one party that every student from my era knows about was Elktonfest '98. One problem, it was directly adjacent to the Police Station. (Digger’s Note: That’d be the Newark Municipal Building at 220 Elkton Road.) There had to be at least a thousand attendees. When the cops showed up to bust the party, everyone spilled onto Elkton Road, stopping traffic. I saw: UD Public Safety, Newark City PD, DE State Troopers, Elkton PD, Maryland State Troopers, and PA State Troopers. There were even helicopters and K-9 units.
True, there were a few troublemakers heckling the cops and throwing glass bottles. But most people were just standing around to see what would happen. I was in the latter crowd. Remember, one usually doesn't see this kind of excitement in Newark, DE.
After breaking up the party and blocking off Elkton Road, the cops had had enough and they charged, blocking the road. They were grabbing people at random and I saw several people getting cuffed. When I saw a cop running in my direction, I took off. I escaped through someone's backyard. I'm not sure how many were arrested, but I heard that the organizers of the party were facing some pretty big fines. Hence forth, the event was referred to as the 'Elkton Road Riots.'”
- Matt B, UD '00
“I remember the Elkton Road Riot very well. Everyone knew the party was going to be big, and there were rumors ahead of time of all the planning the organizers were doing to appease the city. I heard they had applied for a permit and were denied. They had the plastic orange crowd fences, several Port A Potties, and were checking IDs (pretty rare at the time).
The yard was kind of wooded and people had blankets to sit on so it felt different from a Skidfest, where you're packed in…there was lots of room. The party was fine for a long time. The cops came in late afternoon and started circulating, letting people know they were going to have to leave soon. The cops were cool at this point and not forcing the issue.
Then something happened in the back of the yard and they took a girl in handcuffs out past everyone, so they had a good walk to get to the front. This pissed everyone off and that's when they really started to break up the party. As kids filed out to the street, instead of going home they just hung around. The kid behind me punched a dent into a cop car. Then the helicopter and dogs showed up. I was halfway home by then, but still have the News Journal article, saying that 8 people were arrested. It was a great party though and since the train tracks ran right behind the house, I'm surprised no one got hit.”
- Mike W, UD '00
“I was part of this historic party day at UD. The riot made national news. I have to tell you, it was one of the most memorable (from what I can remember because I was very drunk) days of my life. My brother was one of the residents and organizers at Elkton who threw this awesome party before the cops came and the fights started.
My friends and I started drinking at around 8 AM after being trashed the night before. It was the perfect sunny warm day for an all-day party. We got to the party around 11 AM and proceeded to drink more. Since it was my brother’s party, I didn't have to pay to get in. The party was huge. Literally there were thousands and thousands of students and Newark townies at this party. All of my friends were there, and word was getting out for more students to come.
They had a DJ and the bands were getting ready to play when the cops showed up with video cameras and dogs. Yet barely a single person would leave the party. All the partygoers were pissed because we were all drunk or high, and having a great time. We were dancing, singing and drinking. None of us wanted the fun to end. My friends and I didn't leave, because the student to cop ratio was huge. When the cops said we must leave or we'd be arrested, all of us partygoers told the cops to f**king leave. The crowd of thousands thought it was fun to tell the cops off.
But then it started to get out of hand, a couple of the guys started throwing their beer bottles at the police, and some students even tried to fight the cops. Once I saw the crowd start to riot and fight them, we took off. We of course didn't want to get arrested. The crowd that wasn't fighting with the cops started running. So it was chaos. Students were running and falling everywhere. We were running and saw cop cars everywhere, even from different states, and helicopters circling the area like it was Compton.
I was scared for my brother, after finally getting back to the Rodjects where one of my friends lived, and seeing the riot on the news. My mom called all freaked out, because she knew my brother was one of the organizers of the party. I didn't end up hearing from him for two days. He was hiding out from the cops, but they ended up not arresting him because his name wasn't on the lease of the Elkton house, and his roomies didn't rat him out…some got arrested, some didn't.
It was cool to have attended such a huge party that ended up making the news. I haven't been to a party that big since. Boy, do I miss UD!”
- S, UD '02
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