The thick, sweet smell of e-cigarette vapor filled the air as dubstep music blasted from all directions at the intersection of Aspen Avenue and Leroux Street Saturday morning.
While hundreds of people waited in line to enter clubs, those who decided not to brave the line turned the closed-off intersection into a makeshift dance floor. Bar patios filled with patrons holding the namesake red drink, made with tequila, orange juice and grenadine.
The annual Tequila Sunrise party began at 6 a.m., boasting drink specials and door prizes to those brave enough to face the 38-degree pre-dawn temperatures.
The event drew thousands of visitors, mostly students from Northern Arizona University, who walked across the tracks to the bars downtown, where police had closed the streets to vehicles.
However, the annual event attracted visitors to the city from other parts of the state as well.
Tony Milazzo, a student at Arizona State University, said he and some friends had driven up from the Valley for the weekend to enjoy the cooler weather and festivities.
“We came up looking for something fun to do,” Milazzo said. “We knew Tequila Sunrise was going on so we decided to check it out. It seems like a lot of fun here.”
However, the event, which focuses on drinking, was not fun and games for everyone. Visitors who overindulged could be seen hunching over trashcans or vomiting on the street. Some were seen urinating in public.
Representatives from various restaurants, including Jimmy John’s, walked through the streets handing out sandwiches to visitors as well as granola bars and other types of food.
Terry Madeksza, the director of the Downtown Business Alliance, said bars and restaurants downtown were asked to put out temporary trashcans and portable toilets for partygoers.
While event planners had not originally planned to close the streets of downtown, police set up barricades for vehicles in the downtown area, closing off the popular intersection of Aspen and Leroux, as well as surrounding intersections.
By 7:30 a.m., visitors had filled much of the busy intersection, showing off dance moves in the street and taking selfies with friends.
Police in the area said the traffic restrictions would remain in place as long as the Tequila Sunrise crowd remained -- probably into the early afternoon for the safety of the partygoers.
Representatives from various health and crime prevention agencies took the event as an opportunity to educate revelers about the dangers of binge drinking and consequences, including sexual violence.
Employees and volunteers from Northland Family Help Center gave surveys asking partiers about their impressions of sexual violence, as well as provided snacks and water to visitors.
“We are trying to help them sober up a little,” said Caleb McClure, a spokesman for the center. “We are also asking for their input about sexual violence in the community. We want to create a safe space because things can get weird when people are drinking.”
The reporter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 556-2249.
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