The traditional block party dates back to 1969, when a few people meeting at the Mifflin Street Co-op decided to have a street dance on the first weekend in May in celebration of their community and the coming of spring.
In the weeks leading up to the first block party, disagreements surfaced between the police and students about the appropriateness of a street dance. On the day of the event, several incidents led to chaos and violence, which lasted for three days, spreading to State and Langdon streets. More than eighty people were arrested and many injured, including numerous police officers.
The block party again became an issue for the city in 1996. The face of the block party was permanently altered when rioters started fires in the street, hurled cans and bottles at police officers and firefighters, and burned a parked car.
Since then, city officials have cautioned against allowing partygoers to revel in the street. An April 23, 2002, Badger Herald article reported that, "The Madison Police Department denied the request by Mifflin Street residents who hoped to close the street for the annual block party May 4."
Though the streets won't be blocked off, the party will go on. An April 30 Daily Cardinal article reported that Mifflin Street residents and city officials have met to discuss neighborhood participation and safety suggestions in anticipation of Saturday's event.