Booze on the river

Will a Labor Day alcohol ban actually work?

Looks like the traditional Labor Day float is on, booze and all, now that Glenn County supervisors have failed to pass an ordinance prohibiting alcohol on the river over the holiday weekend. Three of the five Glenn supervisors voted yea, but the ordinance was an urgency measure and needed four votes for approval.

The measure will be back, of course, and next time, no longer urgent, it will be approved to go into effect next summer. The goal, of course, is to put a lid on the event, which in the past has gotten as large as 20,000 people, a lot of them not entirely sober. It can make a big mess, and people do get hurt.

But will the ordinance work? Maybe, maybe not.

For one thing, young people are resourceful when it comes to partying. Chico State President Paul Zingg once characterized trying to restrain them as “playing whack-a-mole.” An example is the university’s decision to schedule spring break at the same time as St. Patrick’s Day. That worked because students were out of town at the time, but then they donned sombreros and turned Cesar Chavez’s birthday into a boozy fiesta.

Another option is to move the float elsewhere. That would make a bad situation worse because the current route is the safest on the river—few snags, good ingress and egress points. Or they could move the partying elsewhere—to the Feather River, for example.

Finally, the ordinance is flawed. It covers only Saturday through Monday. The old folks don’t realize that most students don’t have classes on Friday and can go tubing just as easily then as on Labor Day itself. Oops.

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I’ve been meaning to write something about my friend Homer Metcalf, who died Aug. 11 at his home in Cohasset. He would have been 75 on Sept. 19.

Homer was a teacher. He was always teaching, whether it was in his sociology classes at Chico State or in Duffy’s after work. The guy was knowledgeable, passionate and fiercely opinionated, and he loved few things more than a good discussion and the opportunity to share his views.

He was also a mentor, especially to foreign and minority students at the university, many of whom he met through his wonderful wife, Loretta, who worked in the Educational Opportunity Program office. He carried his passion for social justice into everything he did.

He was also a lot of fun. Every summer for many years, he and Loretta invited all their friends—a lot of people—to their foothills spread for a day-long party. There’d be a band, and kegs of beer, and beach volleyball, and kids running around and swimming in the pond, and Homer watching it all with a smile on his face as he tended to the chicken and dogs on the barbie. He was a happy man. That’s how I choose to remember him.

Robert Speer is editor of the CN&R.