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'Sharing the love’: Members of Chi Alpha hand out water during Little 500


Freshmen Chi Alpha members Hanna and Jennifer Dearman, left, hold up a sign advertising free water Friday at the intersection of 17th Street and North Jordan Avenue. Freshman Alex Huey and senior Heidi Holtsclaw, right, hold up a sign advertising free water to cars as they drive by. Members of Chi Alpha handed out free water bottles Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights to partygoers at known drinking locations throughout Bloomington in honor of Little 500 weekend. Lexi Haskell Buy Photos

When she rode by, you could feel the wind. Her tires crunched on the pavement. When the bike wobbled, you held your breath.

People from across the country gathered Friday to watch the 32nd women’s Little 500. After a last-lap sprint, Teter pulled past Delta Gamma to win the famed bike race.

Now, around 11 p.m., a different kind of bike race was taking place on North Jordan Avenue.

A woman in ripped jeans and curled hair sped down the sidewalk on a Pace bike, while her friend chased her on foot. Like the real Little 500, it was a sprint, and the Pace bike was winning.

As the Pace bike sped past, a member of Chi Alpha dropped a water bottle in the bike’s front basket. It fell through the cracks, and the woman continued riding the bike in a serpentine pattern, too busy to grab it.

Just another night on North Jordan during the Little 500.

A street full of greek life, it is known for its nightlife. Interested in a foam party? There's a house having one tonight. Neon more your speed? Check next door.

Whether biking, walking or driving, traffic was busy Friday night when crowds of partygoers descended on North Jordan Avenue smelling like sweat and alcohol. Women sported white FILA sneakers, their chapter’s Little 500 apparel and hoop earrings. Men donned unbuttoned baseball jerseys, visors and dirty gym shoes.

Members of Chi Alpha, a Christian ministry, arrived on the scene just before 10 p.m. They, too, were there for the greek scene, but not to party.

The Chi Alphas were there to offer their drunken peers water bottles as they celebrated what many call the "greatest college weekend in America.”

This was the event's third year. It started as Chi Alpha's way to participate in Little 500, said senior and small group leader Rachel Staffin.

Chi Alpha now has its own men’s bike team, and more than 100 of its members volunteer over the course of the weekend to hand out water bottles, Staffin said. They spread out around Bloomington in known drinking spots with high foot traffic such as Kilroy’s on Kirkwood and near the greek houses on North Jordan Avenue.

The members near the fraternities stationed themselves both at the stop sign on 17th Street and North Jordan Avenue, dancing around with posters advertising the free water.

They handed out about 5,000 water bottles their first year and about 7,500 their second year, Staffin said. They haven't yet done a final count on how many they gave out this year.

Junior Jennifer Huntoon said she participates to help the community.

"You see people getting loved on in a realistic way," she said.

Members of Chi Alpha handed out free water bottles Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights to partygoers at known drinking locations throughout Bloomington in honor of Little 500 weekend. Ty Vinson Buy Photos

Wearing party clothes from leis to ironic T-shirts, hoards of people drove by. Six men pulled up in a white sedan and got water bottles. As they drove away, one told the Chi Alphas he was going to receive oral sex later. Another woman was hesitant to roll her window down, but ended up taking water bottles for her and her friends.

Someone had brought a speaker, and sophomore Cassie Hines played “Coming in Hot” by Andy Mineo and Lecrae.

Although "Coming in Hot" is a song by Christian artists, it's only Christian in the sense that it’s clean, Hines said.

As the night wore on, the group decided to spread out to reach more people. A couple Chi Alphas grabbed water bottles and walked down North Jordan Avenue.

Loud, bass-filled music came from two fraternity houses, and the Chi Alphas decided to stop between them so they could be ready when people left.

Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie” started playing at one of the houses, and the Chi Alphas danced. They didn’t have to be inside the fraternity to enjoy the party.

Traffic died a bit while the parties were going on, and the Chi Alphas began dancing to “Cotton Eyed Joe,” cracking jokes and attempting to juggle the water bottles to pass the time. They made sure to stand in a “U” instead of a circle so when people walked by, they'd seem more inclusive and welcoming.

A man walked by and took a water bottle.

“You’re changing the world,” he said. “Real shit.”

He then took a knee and chugged the water like a Smirnoff Ice.

People began heavily streaming out of one fraternity, and the Chi Alphas moved toward them.

Two men came up to the group. They greeted the Chi Alphas and began talking.

“I’m a senior,” one said. He paused and smiled. “In high school.”

He chatted with the group and asked them who they were. Eventually, he asked his friend if they were going to walk or Uber home. They decided to walk.

“Don’t trip,” a Chi Alpha called out.

“Thank you,” he said. “I love all you motherfuckers.”

Around 12:30a.m., North Jordan Avenue grew quiet. The neon party lights had been turned off and the thumping bass was gone. A group of men in jerseys and baseball caps smoked cigarettes outside. A few girls took pictures, their flashes briefly lighting up the darkness.

Most partygoers were gone. Maybe they were staying the night at the fraternity, maybe they’d found their way to another fraternity party, maybe they’d gone home. It didn’t matter. The party was over.

A middle-aged woman pulled up in her car and waited outside the fraternity for someone to get in her Uber.

A Pizza X driver stopped in front of the fraternity to drop off a pizza, a sure sign the party had officially ended.

A Chi Alpha gave the driver a water bottle, and a few minutes before 1 a.m., the group made its way back to its original location at 17th Street and North Jordan Avenue.

By 1:15 a.m., even the car traffic waned and the Chi Alphas decided to call it a night at the North Jordan Avenue station. The group loaded the unused water bottles into a truck and gathered to pray.

They thanked God for allowing them to help people and prayed they could continue sharing love.

“Amen,” the group said.

As they drove off, nothing was left on North Jordan Avenue but the sound of a distant police siren.

Chi Alphas and partygoers alike went to bed, prepared to do the same thing tomorrow for the men's Little 500.

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