Queen’s University to bring back Homecoming five years after violent street parties killed it

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

Queen's University is reviving its annual Homecoming festivities after it was suspended five years ago amid an orgy of drunkenness and dozens of arrests.

The Toronto Star reports University Principal Daniel Woolf announced Wednesday the event would be held next October.

"The decision came about because Homecoming is a very important tradition for alumni and for students," Woolf said at a press conference. "It's also, when well run, important for our communities and brings in a good deal of business to Kingston."

Homecoming was suspended in 2008 after a massive street party resulted in 140 arrests, 700 liquor charges and more than 20 people taken to hospital with severe intoxication, the Star said. The trouble required hundreds of police, including riot officers, to restore order.

The event was initially suspended for two years and extended for three more years.

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The cancellation was the culmination of growing problems around Homecoming that first surfaced in 2005 after revellers took the party into the streets, smashing beer bottles and setting an overturned car on fire, the Star said.

"It became a dangerous street party that had grown over the years, some of which didn't involve Queen's people at all, but out-of-town partiers just looking for a good time in someone's backyard," Woolf said.

Queen's Rector Nick Francis, who represents students on campus, began studying there in 2009 after the Homecoming was cancelled. But he said students didn't forget the tradition and campaigned to bring it back.

"It's one of those things that people talk about all the time, and reminisce over," Francis told the Star.

Students organized their own low-key events, dubbed "fauxcoming," that were well attended but because they weren't formally announced and hard for alumni to attend, the Star reported.

Homecoming as a tradition originates in the United States but has become an annual event at a number of Canadian universities.

The student blog Notesolution listed Queen's Homecoming parties as the country's wildest but lauded London, Ont.'s Western University Homecoming events as among the best.

Western's Homecoming tradition dates from the 1940s, the blog says, and parties were generally well behaved until the 1980s. Police were called to disperse revellers in 1984 using tear gas and riot gear, it said. However organizers have become stricter about controlling their events in recent years.

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Back at Queen's, Alma Mater Society president Doug Johnson said the Homecoming tradition has been sorely missed.

"Students have worked tirelessly over the past several years to ensure its safe return, recognizing that we are also residents of Kingston," he said, according to the Star.

Woolf said next October's festivities, to be held over two weekends, will include traditions such as a football game, along with events for alumni, students and Kingston residents. But there's one thing it won't have, he said.

"I think everyone understands there cannot be a return to . . . the street party."