10 Most Epic Parties In Ohio University History

"CampusOU". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Ohio University/Athens. Ohio (“CampusOU”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Ohio University is a state university in Athens, Ohio that has highly-regarded educational programs in communications, journalism, engineering, sports management and other disciplines.

It’s also a world-class party school.

Why? You have to consider where it is located. It’s in the middle of remote Southeast Ohio, nestled in rolling hills. The heavily-wooded area was the perfect setting to create a college that is on many lists of “Most Beautiful Campus.”

But its isolation means there is not that much to do after you are done studying than to party like the world is going to end. For example, the town’s famous annual Halloween bash takes over Court Street, the main street of bars and restaurants. Thousands of witches, warlocks and Elvises, most from out of town, lose their minds for one night. For the regular students, it’s like any other night uptown with the only difference you can dress up like Dracula and spit blood on people.

The crack research team at JoeDitzel.com went back in time to find the craziest parties at this wild party school. Here are the 10 most epic parties in Ohio University history.

Founding Bash – 1809

Ohio University’s party heritage was set at the very beginning. The University was the idea of a guy named Manasseh Cutler, who met with a bunch of other people with funny names in the Bunch of Grapes Tavern in Boston on March 1st, 1786. After many tankards of ale, they got down to business.

Bunch of Grapes Tavern - Boston
Bunch of Grapes Tavern – Boston

Cutler: Gentlemen, I want to start a University in the new Northwest Territory.

Drunk #1: Will there be girls?

Cutler: What? It’s a place of higher learning! The focus is on education!

Drunk #2: As long as there are girls, I’m in!

A vote was taken and it passed unanimously. A new college would be formed. The packed tavern started doing beer bongs made from the intestines of calves. They got so loud and crazy, two divisions of constables were sent to break up the chaos. Several men were found the next morning passed out in a nearby stable.

First Graduation Party – 1815

Ohio University Main Campus 1800s
Ohio University Main Campus 1800s

The first graduating class proudly accepted their diplomas in 1815. Since the college was founded in 1804, it meant it took them 11 years to graduate. Partly this was due to spending an inordinate amount of time searching for food to eat. Mostly it was because the students were partying too much, and several had to repeat junior year four times.

After commencement, the wine started flowing. Congratulatory cheers and toasts rang through the Athens air. A fight broke out among several drunk uncles of graduates, which started a fire which burned the first floor out of Cutler Hall, the main building on the budding campus. The University voted to expel several students, but action was never taken as they had already graduated.

Suspension Years 3-Year Party Marathon – 1845-1848

The University had to suspend operation for a few years due to lack of funds. Undaunted students just hung around and partied in nearby warehouses the entire time until the school reopened.

Margaret Boyd Bar Hop – 1873

Margaret Boyd became the first female graduate in 1873. Fellow students carried her on their shoulders through town, up and down Court Street, stopping in all 46 bars three times over two days.

Baseball Keg Blowout – 1892

Ohio University First Baseball Team - 1892
Ohio University First Baseball Team – 1892

Ohio University joined with several other schools in 1892 to form the Ohio Athletic Union. Baseball became the first official school sport that same year. Team members celebrated by hosting a 200-keg blowout near Jefferson Hill. Someone bounced 40 empty kegs down the hill, killing two freshman and injuring 75 other students.

Pi Beta Phi Party Marathon – 1889-1908

Pi Beta Phi Sorority at Ohio University- 1892 Yearbook Photo
Pi Beta Phi Sorority at Ohio University- 1892 Yearbook Photo

Pi Beta Phi was the first sorority established at Ohio University. Since there were no other sororities at the time, they were invited to every fraternity party for many years until Alpha Gamma Delta sorority arrived in 1908. As a result, “Pi Phis” partied every day and night non-stop for 19 years, a tradition some try to uphold today.

Marching Band Columbus Road Trip – 1923

Stuart Homer Baird organized the first marching band in 1923. Known ever since for their wild on-field dancing and formations, the original band set the tone with a week-long march from Athens to Columbus, playing homemade instruments and pounding Huckleberry Wine the whole way. The entire Tuba section was lost during the trip somewhere along Nelsonville.

Spring Riots – 1970s

One spring in the late 1960s, students took to the streets to protest the Vietnam War. After the war ended, spring riots continued each year as students took over Court Street and clashed with police. Without the anger of an unjust war to motivate them, students relied on Jack Daniels, tequila and cases of Pabst Blue Ribbon before the brand was taken over by hipsters.

Halloween Block Party – 1974-present

Ghouls and goblins descend every year on Athens for the annual Halloween Block Party. It started as the alcohol-fueled shenanigans of some uptown partiers in 1974 who stopped traffic on Court Street and smashed bottles all over the place.

In 1975, nothing happened, but in 1976, students again blocked the streets and clashed with police. The next year, the University could see the writing on the wall and blocked off the street for a formal celebration.

Today more than 10 million people attend the Halloween bash in Athens every year. Over 5000 stages present every musical style known including Icelandic Zydeco and Russian Folk Hip Hop. Famous guests have included Michael Jackson, U2, The Rolling Stones and the only known reunion of the remaining Beatles.

Palmerfest – 1991 present

Many Ohio U. students make Palmer Street their home during the school year. Almost every house along Palmer and side streets is filled to the brim with college students.

A casual party in May of 1991 among several of the homes in close proximity grew over the years to become the biggest block party in the nation.  Dubbed Palmerfest, more than 5 million people come from every nation on Earth to see if they can survive a 48-hose, 3-story beer bong filled with the equivalent of a tanker trunk of suds.

Palmerfest really began as an after-party of the famous Springfest, a monster celebration every year in the mid-to-late 80s that was basically like spring break in Ft. Lauderdale if it stayed in Athens on the banks of the Hocking River: massive alcohol consumption, top-named music acts, herbs, naked people and Ultimate Frisbee.

The school made the fatal mistake of making Springfest alcohol free in 1990, and the only people attending that year was a lost busload of Baptists from Bent Creek, Kentucky. Palmerfest rose from the ashes of Springest in 1991, and a new campus legend was born.

Ohio University is often called “Harvard-On-The-Hocking” due to its ties to Boston in the 1700s, the picturesque campus and respected academic achievements. As these 10 parties shows, its also an epic party school that was born in a tavern and continues that tradition to this day.


About Joe Ditzel

Joe Ditzel is a keynote speaker, humor writer, and really bad golfer. You can reach him via email at [email protected] as well as Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.