Beer cans catapulted through the air. Students took selfies with SWAT cops. Couches were burned.
When the Wildcats beat the Gators, no city ordinance can stop the State Street celebrations.
Just minutes after the UK football team defeated Florida 20-13 on Saturday, at approximately 9:30 p.m., a horde of several hundred students ran toward the first fire of the night. It wouldn’t be the last wave of fans.
In the week leading up to the game, Lexington prepared for a post-win party. The city’s Division of Code Enforcement dispersed letters to neighborhood residents in the vicinity of State Street reminding residents to “please remove any indoor furniture from the exterior of the property and keep the property free of any trash and debris,” in accordance with Chapter 12 of the Lexington Code of Ordinances.
The warning didn’t seem to hinder State Street goers, who supplied at least five couches and several tables for burning throughout the night’s festivities.
“I was at the game and it was really exciting,” UK senior Taylor Judd said. “I came here just to have fun cause I’ve never been to State Street and you hear the stories about it. And I think it's a lot of fun.”
Fellow UK student Tyler said it felt great to join together “as a unit, as a school, regardless of race, regardless of everything” to celebrate a Wildcat victory.
But it wasn’t long before the Lexington PD intervened. Several officers worked to extinguish the first fire, aiming pepper spray at students who got in their way. In return, students threw beer — and insults — at the officers.
Judd said that it was unfair of people to throw stuff at the police, considering how accommodating they were.
“Like they're so chill, good people,” Judd said. “That one guy busted a beer can on top of the cop’s head. That’s messed up. That’s too far. The cops let the couches burn for our enjoyment and then [the students] crossed the line.”
UK junior Ansley Minor added that some UK fans also took their hatred of Florida fans too far.
“On the way down here, we walked with a big group of people, and there were families leaving the game and the ones that were wearing Florida shirts, even the ones that had little kids, people were going up and like screaming in the kids’ faces,” Minor said.
As the police put out one fire, another popped up further down the street. Again, students sprinted toward it. This time, the SWAT team entered to extinguish the flames. Rumors of tear gas quickly dispersed the crowd — temporarily. For a while, it seemed like the night was winding down.
It wasn’t. Students began running between two houses, toward University Avenue, where a much taller and brighter fire was burning. Someone launched a wooden chair into the flames. It was approximately 10:45 p.m., and the energy remained high. The fire truck, which briefly disappeared after the first fire was extinguished, was back in commission.
A SWAT officer on the scene said that it was hard to compare Saturday's couch-burnings with other nights, but that it was close to being as intense as when UK last won a national championship. He said his team was just trying to keep people safe.
“All you can do is try to put [the fires] out,” he said. “Because when they get really big, you’re getting close to the power lines.”
By 11:20 p.m., all fires had been extinguished for some time, and most students began the trek toward home or house parties. Beer cans, red Solo cups and glass were riddled everywhere. The smoking remnants of couches and other furniture were guarded by police. Charli XCX’s voice rang from a nearby stereo as people walked away. The lyrics seem fitting — “I crashed my car into the bridge. I don’t care. I love it.”
“It was electric,” UK freshman Caleb said. “It hasn’t happened like this in a long time.”
While the first State Street celebration of the year is over, it may not be the last.
“I’m out here because we lost to Florida 33 of the last 34 times we played, and today is probably the biggest football game I would say of anyone that's at UK currently,” said Lucas, a UK student. “This win was huge and I think that this gives us a good idea of what we're gonna do for the rest of the season.”