Let’s get ready to scramble: event returns for another round

It was like a typical Friday night at Joe’s. There was a long line at the campus bar, yet students braved the cold weather knowing the fun would begin once they got inside. But this was a Wednesday night, and lines were already forming at 5:30 p.m. As hundreds of students queued up outside Joe’s, they only had one thing in mind: to secure a spot for this year’s Barscramble, scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 7.

The event, hosted by the Irish Illini — one the largest Registered Student Organizations on campus — is a competitive barcrawl with a twist, said Irish Illini co–president Kenny Burns, senior in LAS.

Starting at noon and lasting all day, teams comprised of eight people, with at least four girls, race through various campus bars. They partake in different games related to the barcrawl’s theme. With Joe’s as the starting and ending point, the top three teams are awarded medals. In addition, the event has live music, a raffle and an after party, he said.

The Barscramble is one of Irish Illini’s four big social events of the year, along with Half-Way St. Patrick’s Day, the spring Barscramble and its Unofficial celebration.

While co–president Amanda Burns, senior in Engineering, said the exact history of Barscramble is unknown, she knows one thing for sure: the event’s popularity has risen.

“In my freshman year, we had 600 people participate in the Barscramble,” Amanda said. “The number has tripled since then.”

In the past, sign ups for Barscramble took place over the course of two days. This year, slots were filled within 30 minutes. She added that due to the overwhelming crowd at the sign up, they accepted 600 more entries after the initial 1,000 slots were filled.

Kenny said while many of the contestants of this year’s Barscramble are among the 3,000 members on the Irish Illini roster, there are also a lot of outside participants.

“It’s a really good time, and people will spread it (the event) to other people,” he said. “We have a larger Greek community this year, as well as the water–polo, water–skiing and wrestling team.”

Despite welcoming the diverse crowd, both of the organizers said a participant limit was necessary. “It’s about bar capacity issues. We can’t fit everyone into Joe’s,” Kenny said. “We also want to keep people interested, so we don’t want too many people participating.”

The organizers attribute the themes of the Barscramble as the event’s appealing factor. However, the theme for this year’s festivities will not be revealed until two days beforehand.

“Despite the short notice, people get really into it. They get all dressed and accessorized up,” Amanda said.

Themes over the last few years have included Power Rangers, Batman, American Gladiator, James Bond, Will Ferrell and Halloween.

For Amanda, nothing highlights her four years worth of Barscramble memories more than “100 people running down the street with their faces painted like the Joker.”

“It’s fun when you see that other people are having fun,” she said.

Haley Verbeke, senior in LAS and executive board member of Irish Illini, has helped design several of the barcrawl T–shirts. She said the popularity of Barscramble goes beyond dressing up.

“I just think it’s a really great experience socially as well as helping out,” Verbeke said. “You don’t even have to be in the club to participate.”

Proceeds from the Barscramble go to Relay for Life and Special Christmas for Special Kids, philanthropic organizations that Irish Illini is involved with.

For both of the group’s presidents, ensuring that everything goes smoothly on the day of Barscramble is no easy task. Even with the help of 40 volunteers, both know they won’t be getting much sleep within the next few days. For now though, they don’t mind.

“It’s better than Christmas,” Kenny said.