“Wahoo-[expletive]-wa!” one woman yelled.
It took only a few minutes for the capacity crowd at Boylan Heights bar to clear out and for the street party at the corner of Main and 14th streets near the University of Virginia campus to get underway.
Formally dressed couples came running down the street, having left sorority and fraternity events to join the fray. Girls climbed on boys’ shoulders as the bar’s DJ started pumping music on massive speakers that had previously broadcast the game to passersby. One woman dressed in a bridal gown crowd-surfed and threw her bouquet into the crowd.
The raucous celebration, around which the police eventually formed a barricade to keep revelers from running into oncoming traffic, felt like a release.
“I’m from Baltimore County, so last year was especially crushing,” said Virginia senior Kevin Warschaw, referring to the Cavaliers’ first-round loss to Maryland Baltimore County, the first by a No. 1 seed to a No. 16 seed in NCAA tournament history. “I got inundated with texts from every acquaintance I’ve ever known. Actually making it to the Final Four this year is the perfect remedy.”
Recent Virginia graduate Annabel Hungate arrived at the party having purchased her airplane tickets to the Final Four for around $500 on Saturday morning. She figured she could cancel the tickets within 24 hours if the Cavaliers lost.
“My birthday is April 3, and every year my dad says he’s going to get me Final Four tickets for my birthday,” Hungate said. “It’s never happened. This is the first year it’s finally worked out.”
Fans spontaneously broke out in “Let’s go ‘Hoos!” chants hours before the game in the downtown area’s crowded outdoor pedestrian mall, where families roamed and enjoyed the warm spring evening. College students — and some older alumni — staked out places in local bars a half-hour before tip-off, crowding into local establishments such as the Biltmore, where fans circled around the outdoor patio’s lone television, and Trinity Irish Pub, where those who didn’t make it inside by game time waited in line and watched on their phones.
“This whole thing is unbelievable,” said Boylan Heights owner J.R. Hadley, a Charlottesville native who stopped letting patrons in just after tip-off, when his bar reached capacity. “We’ve been waiting for it for so long, I mean, this is like a ’30 for 30′ [documentary]. Mamadi [Diakite] hit that shot to tie the game? None of this has ever happened. Even the cops played along. They said the DJ could play one more song.”
Rebecca Thelen, a Charlottesville police officer and Virginia alumna who had been patrolling the sidewalk outside of Boylan Heights for much of the night, broke out in a little dance when she saw the final score.
“As long as people are respecting each other and respecting property, it’s good fun,” she said. “I think all of us [officers] were sitting in our cars listening to it on the radio.”
Just after midnight Sunday morning, Charlottesville police Sgt. Bradley Pleasants said no arrests in relation to the celebration had been made. He expected the crowd to disperse fairly quickly as fans returned to bars hoping to keep the party going.
“They aren’t serving alcohol in the middle of the street,” Pleasants said. “… We made them turn the music off, but we’re going to let them have their moment.”