Column: SIU’s unsanctioned traditions: Solar Bear and Unofficial

By Mitch Brown, Staff Reporter

When I tell older generations that I go to SIU, their response most likely starts with “Oh, I visited Carbondale, once…,” followed by a story about how SIU students were rambunctious and rowdy. 

The students of the earlier classes were ready to riot, shut down the main strip and cause some trouble. While the students are less rebellious nowadays, we are still proud to celebrate unsanctioned holidays. 

While Solar Bear is newer and was only started in the early 2000s, Halloween and then Unofficial has been a beloved holiday for decades in SIU’s history. 


Solar Bear is the first fall party holiday. Beginning Aug. 24, students party at houses and the bars, pregaming the festivities ahead of Saturday.  

Saturday, Aug. 24, traditionally starts with breakfast and mimosas at bars like PK’s, for those who have friends who live off-campus. 

(See more:Beer, breakfast, pregaming the day: PK’s)

If you are living in the dorms, I highly recommend eating a good breakfast and drinking plenty of water before the afternoon. 

Around noon, there will be multiple groups hosting block parties north of campus. If you can’t find them on Facebook, just walk around College Street and you should hear them. There are parties that have water slides, so dress accordingly. 

There are also pool parties, but these can be shut down by police, like what happened to Aspen Court Apartments in the winter of 2014. Police pepper sprayed the crowd and forced them to leave the premises. 

(See more: Solar bear crowd dispersed with pepper spray)


These parties are followed by a lull where those who have been drinking all day take a break and eat dinner, along with napping before the night starts. 

The night of Solar Bear sees massive parties at Saluki Bar N’ Grill, Levels and the original host of the party, Pinch Penny Pub. For these bars, you have to be at least 19 to enter and 21 to drink. 

All of the bars in Carbondale — Traxx, Stix, PK’s and Hanger 9 — host special events.

If you aren’t a fan of standing in lines and crowded bars, there are house parties all across Carbondale. These parties are my personal favorite, and they can be less crowded and closer to the dorms than the bars. 

The next holiday in the fall is Unofficial: SIU’s Halloween. I would consider it to be the World Series of party weekends. 

Following SIU and Carbondale authorities banning Halloween because of  the large amounts of property damage to the city, students started celebrating on a different weekend. 

(See more: City, law enforcement officials hope for safe Unofficial Halloween)

Now that SIU and the city are trying to encourage Halloween, as of last year, there are still more students celebrating Unofficial than Halloween weekend. 

This year, Unofficial will be the weekend before Halloween. It’s like Solar Bear, but everyone wears costumes. 

The schedule is similar to Solar Bear with the house parties/bars Friday, block parties on Saturday, followed by more house parties/bars that night. 

This is the weekend where most people bring friends, so there are even more college kids out having fun. 

I will write more about Unofficial weekend in later issues; the primary focus should be surviving the first week of classes for Solar Bear. 

These weekends are great for forgetting worries about school and having fun.

Staff reporter Mitch Brown can be reached at [email protected].

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