Whitewater's Spring Splash officially cancelled, city says

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Jonah Beleckis
Monday, February 13, 2017

WHITEWATER—Whitewater's Spring Splash celebration is cancelled for 2017, according to a city news release.

This official cancellation comes less than a week after an hour-long city council discussion where council members and city officials criticized what the crowds from last year's event did to the city following the event.

The release emphasized the event itself was well organized and ran safely, but problems emerged when large crowds left the event. Many groups who left the party “became unruly and dangerous,” according to the release.

Steve Farina, owner of apparel company Wisconsin Red, which sponsored the event, met with city officials Feb. 1, and they determined the company would pull its sponsorship.

“In recent meetings with city staff, Wisconsin Red stressed that the events that transpired outside of Spring Splash were in no way representative of the organization's mission or values,” the release states. “However, many officials believed that the successful promotional campaign on the Wisconsin Red website and social media pages had contributed to the large turnout of visitors and the mobs that continued throughout the day and night.”

Wisconsin Red posted a statement to the event's Facebook page last week, expressing a similar message to the city, saying the event was secured and cleaned properly. Wisconsin Red and the city were working on how to make 2017's event possible over the last several months, according to the post.

“It quickly became known that there was little to no interest from the city to consider these plans,” the post states. “Instead, we were essentially forced to step back from our involvement this year or be subject to a myriad of unwarranted consequences.”

Council members and city officials expressed concern over how the city could handle the crowds safely this year. Police Chief Lisa Otterbacher said it was “absolutely a gift” that nobody died last year, and she had several meetings with other law enforcement agencies to prepare for the event.

Council members Stephanie Goettl and James Langnes, who are UW-Whitewater students, said the void left after Wisconsin Red dropped out as a sponsor would result in a more dangerous, less-controlled party.

“Wisconsin Red was the only control point we had in this entire ordeal,” Langnes said at the Feb. 7 meeting.

The release said most of the negative behavior from last year was not done by Whitewater students, and the city wants to encourage safe and controlled gatherings.

The event was scheduled for April 29 and has served since 2013 as an end-of-semester party in Whitewater, but people from outside Whitewater also attended. City officials said at the Feb. 7 meeting the event had not been officially cancelled yet.

The city will consider revisiting Spring Splash in 2018, according to the release.

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