The annual downtown rental turnover in the middle of every August is typically the time when garbage weighs most heavily on the minds of most Madisonians, as refuse lines the sidewalks, alleys and driveways in many neighborhoods near the UW-Madison campus. There are other times when the city's streets get trashed, however. Halloween is a timely example, as State Street is lined with costume detritus, once-hidden beer cans, paper cups and fast food bags -- and for a couple years accompanied by broken glass -- during the morning after the revelries. Following Halloween, however, is the Mifflin Street Block Party, the large alcohol-driven gathering on the 400 and 500 blocks of West Mifflin Street that's traditionally held the last weekend before final exams in the UW's spring semester schedule.
The documentary Yesterday's Trash examines the issue of garbage, where it comes from and where it goes, both during and after the annual springtime rite in Madison's Bassett neighborhood. As introduced by its producer (and narrator) Ben Cohen: "It's springtime in Madison, Wisconsin, and that means you can count on one thing: the Mifflin Street Block Party...but I didn't come here today just to tell the story of the [party]. As I watched this enormous crowd, I couldn't help but wonder, who was going to clean up this mess?"
Cohen speaks with a police officer about their enforcement of littering, with an anti-littering evangelist, along with self-described lazy partiers and others pondering the scale of the clean-up necessary the following morning.
The first half of this engaging documentary -- shot over April 30 and May 1 of 2005 -- follows below.
The second part of Yesterday's Trash examines how the 400 and 500 blocks of West Mifflin Street were ultimately cleaned-up after the 2005 edition of the party. More information about the history of the Mifflin Street Block Party was published last year by The Badger Herald.