The Orion

Formula for a safe float: fewer people, less booze

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About 7,000 fewer people showed up to the Labor Day float this year compared to the year before, probably because of the alcohol ban imposed by both Butte and Glenn counties.

This year, only 3,000 people attended the float. Compare that to last year’s festivities on the Sacramento River, which had about 10,000 people in attendance.

The decline in attendance was probably in response to the alcohol ban along the Sacramento River, even though only three arrests were made at the float itself.

In the wake of the death of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student Brett Olson at last year’s float, we finally have a Labor Day tradition that’s not dangerous, crowded, enormously messy and staggeringly expensive for the county.

The river is clearly not the hot spot for people to spend their holiday anymore, and for good reason. The alcohol ban was a huge success.

But this change should have been made last year, before Brett Olson drowned.

In 2011, Assemblyman Dan Logue proposed legislation to allow the alcohol bans, which was then signed by Gov. Jerry Brown and passed by the Butte County Board of Supervisors. The ban then failed to pass in Glenn County, keeping police from enforcing the new law. After Olson died, the Glenn County Board of Supervisors passed the ban in April 2013.

In other words, it took a death to make public officials in Glenn County see the light.

There’s obviously no way to tell whether Olson would still be alive today if the ban had been in place earlier, but it could have at the very least prevented the river from getting trashed and labor day float participants from being injured.

It is a decision that was made too little too late.

And just as Glenn County was responsible for not passing the law last year, a few people were equally responsible for failing to follow it this year.

Most of the people gave up their booze as soon as they got to the riverbank, but, as you might expect, a few were caught trying to flout the newly-enforced laws.

Trying to sneak a water bottle full of vodka past the cops isn’t a capital offence, but decisions like that represent a frame of mind that caused Labor Day to get out of control in the first place.

There seems to be no limit to the extent some rule-breakers will go to in order to achieve what they must regard as the epitome of Chico experiences: a beer in hand, on Labor Day, while coasting down the river. What’s next, a false bottom in a cooler? Burying a 40-pack of Keystone on the riverbottom the day before the float?

The city of Chico has said it’s had enough. The university community has told everyone it’s fed up. And even the Glenn County Board of Supervisors, sluggish though it may be, responded to the tragedy and set itself on the right course.

It’s time for the people who float down the river on Labor Day to follow suit. If we want to keep the float safe next year, it seems like we have a simple formula: fewer people and less booze.


The Orion can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.

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The student news site of California State University, Chico
Formula for a safe float: fewer people, less booze