Saturday, April 14 is the day that all of Athens will gather together on Palmer Street to party, but we can’t forget the real reason for the season: the late, great Arnold Palmer.
Palmer Fest has been celebrated in Athens, Ohio since 1958, when “The King” won The Masters tournament for the first time. Back then, the road that is now Palmer Street was called High Street, and High Street was called Mill Street, and Mill Street was called something else altogether.
But on that fated day, golf fans and college students alike took to the street to celebrate Arnie’s first big tournament win.
When Arnold Palmer heard about all the shenanigans, he immediately drove to Athens to party. Legend has it that Arnold Palmer had 62 cans of Rolling Rock beer, and each time he finished one, he crushed the empty can on his forehead. He then played the 9-hole golf course on campus and scored 12-under-par while absolutely shithoused.
It remains the course record to this day.
There are still a few old-timers who remember that day, including 96-year-old Betty Smith who says she remembers that day more fondly than any of her grandchildren.
“I showed Arnie my tits,” she wheezed. “He signed them!”
The day after Arnold Palmer came to Athens the street was abruptly renamed, and since then students remember that day by dressing in checkered golf pants and collared shirts and taking to the streets. Students fill countless kegs with lemonade and iced tea, and take turns hitting golf balls into the river.
Sophomore Tony Robbins reminisced on his first Palmer Fest: “I thought this was like the other fests and the kegs would be filled with beer. Turns out it’s really all just Arnold Palmer’s.”
The horse cops are always roaming the street at Palmer Fest. They make sure that every student celebrating the fest is dressing and acting appropriately. Ronald Cooper, police captain of the mounted unit, has been policing this fest for 12 years.
“There’s always a few dumb freshman who come out here in basketball jerseys or tank tops. We send them home immediately. The dress code is strict golf attire, knee-length tailored shorts and tucked-in collared shirts or nothing. There will be no disrespecting golf’s greatest legend on this day. We won’t stand for it.”
Palmer Fest is a tradition unlike any other and so is the man it’s named for. He broke 100 on a round of golf when he was 3. JFK asked him for tips on his golf swing. He was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom. He gave Kate Upton her first golf lesson. He flew the first Boeing 747 before they were in commercial service. Nixon asked for his advice on how to end the Vietnam War. He played in 50 Masters tournaments. This isn’t funny stuff, guys — he’s an absolute legend.
Don’t forget to pour one out for Arnold Palmer this weekend.