2010-03-04 / Local & State

Police, PSU Target St. Patty’s Day Lookalike


STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) – Bars served green beer. Stores sold green shirts and party hats. Revelers took to the streets at dawn.

The unofficial holiday known as “State Patty’s Day’’ in this college town has looked a lot like St. Patrick’s Day celebration, except it falls two weeks before the traditional Irish holiday.

Now, police, businesses and student leaders are trying to crack down this year on the event they say is just an excuse for a day of excessive drinking and destructive behavior.

Fraternities voted to ban wine and hard alcoholic drinks for events on Saturday – the day of this year’s State Patty’s Day – and their parties will have increased security and monitoring. Gatherings will be smaller with socials limited to around 50 guests.

The student government association joined other student groups to pledge to encourage responsible drinking. After some bars opened in the morning in previous years, tavern association members have voted against offering green beer or other unusual specials, and to keep regular business hours.

By Thursday, at least two establishments had decided to close entirely. Mangers at the Shandygaff and the Lion’s Den both said they were trying to send a message.

“I really don’t understand what the celebration is about,’’ said Chris Rosengrant, operations manager at the Lion’s Den. “I thought it would be a great statement to make for the promotion of responsible drinking.’’

At the University of Illinois, police are again preparing for the so-called “early St. Patrick’s Day’’ celebration scheduled for March 5. Authorities in recent years had started cracking down on the event, started about a dozen years ago, after too many disruptions in classrooms, said Lt. Skip Frost of the university’s police department.

Festivities now are mainly focused around invitation-only private parties, Frost said. Security guards used to monitor athletic events are stationed at lecture halls, though Frost said visitors from outside the school and the community typically cause most problems.

In State College, State Patty’s Day started in 2007 from a Facebook group created by Joe Veltre because St. Patrick’s Day fell during spring break.

“It was kind of meant as a joke for me, my close friends and roommates. The group within a week had 1,000 people,’’ said Veltre, a university senior who also works as a bartender.

Veltre said he never planned to continue the holiday in 2008, but got positive feedback from students.

Last year brought a spike in police activity, surpassing even busy football weekends, borough police said. Police calls for State Patty’s Day 2009 were up nearly 19 percent to 311 from the previous year, while the number if DUI arrests doubled to 14, according to police statistics. The number of alcohol overdoses needing emergency assistance grew from 12 to 21.

While some bars and other businesses made out well, others closed for the day, said Jody Alessandrine, executive director of the Downtown State College Improvement District.

Built-up frustration carried over into this year. Many in the community felt the town’s image took a hit after Penn State was ranked the top party school in the country according to an unscientific survey last summer by Princeton Review.

A freshman’s accidental death following a night of drinking in September shook some students, and school and community leaders further ramped up efforts to discourage alcohol abuse.

“The best-case scenario is that we don’t have a 2011 State Patty’s Day,’’ said borough police chief Tom King.

Some Penn State students say designating a State Patty’s Day just to party is overkill.

“I think there are good steps that we are taking right now,’’ said Evan Smith, 21, a senior from Allentown. “Having said that, I still think a lot of people are going to get hammered on Saturday ... but hopefully the numbers go down from the police reports.’’

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