The Rise And Fall Of State Patty’s Day
Since its inception in 2007, State Patty’s Day has gone through many ups and downs and significant changes. What started as a way for Penn Staters to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day in 2007, when the popular drinking holiday fell over spring break, has turned into, well, many different things — an excuse to day-drink, one of the most crime-ridden days in Happy Valley, and now, its birthed a community-wide festival.
With the ninth edition of State Patty’s Day this weekend, let’s take a look back at how it’s evolved since the first celebration.
In 2007, students were upset that they would be on Spring Break on March 17 and wouldn’t get to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day at their favorite spots in State College. So, then-student Joe Veltre came up with a solution, and State Patty’s Day was born through — what else? — a Facebook group. The first State Patty’s Day was on March 2 and mildly tame compared to those that followed. Penn State Police reported that seven people were taken to the hospital for dangerous drinking and State College Police received about 140 calls that day, according to a 2007 Daily Collegian article. The same article mentions that State Patty’s Day’s original name varied between that and “Patrick’s the Saints Day.” Bars even worked with State Patty’s Day founders to promote and organize the event. That would certainly not be the case in years to come.
2008’s State Patty’s celebration came with a new sponsor — an organization called Safeguard Old State. Veltre reached out to SOS to ensure that the tradition would continue. The ultimate goal of the partnership was filled with good intentions. SOS worked with multiple campus organizations like SPA and University Health Services.
“Our greatest hope is that State Patty’s Day is embraced by level-headed administrators and all members of the Penn State and State College communities as a cherished part of the healthy, natural drinking culture of Happy Valley,” former SOS Executive Director Gavin Keirans said at the time.
In 2008, Police received 262 calls and made about 50 arrests, according to a State Patty’s Day After Action Report.
The holiday really took off in 2009. Crime levels soared and ambulance calls were high. State College police fielded 311 calls, 79 summary arrests, 14 DUIs, and 21 alcohol overdoses during 2009’s State Patty’s Day.
“State Patty’s Day began to take on a life of its own in 2009. It changed how we operate and makes it harder for police to stop others,” a local EMT said.
SOS was still involved with the 2009 event, and the group asked Penn State to provide alternatives to drinking during that particular weekend. After the weekend’s festivities, Safeguard Old State announced it would no longer support the holiday and State College officials publicly opposed it as well.
A total of 103 people were treated at Mount Nittany Medical Center for alcohol-related incidents. This year also showed an increase in out-of-towners. Of the 103 patients at Mount Nittany, 67 percent weren’t Penn State students. A Facebook group called “End the State Patty’s Day Tradition” was also created, hoping for the end of the destructive holiday.
State Patty’s Day peaked in 2011. Arrest and call numbers hit their highest in the holiday’s history. State College police made 234 arrests this State Patty’s Day and fielded 480 calls while Penn State police issued 104 citations. Many of these infractions were attributed to visitors that were not Penn State students. At least eight bars refrained from selling alcohol, and those that did open didn’t have any specials and many closed early. This year was also the start of a community-walk program, which more than 500 people participated in on State Patty’s Day 2011.
Following the debauchery that was 2011 State Patty’s Day, 2012’s festivities were met with a State Patty’s Day opposition task force, made up of student leaders, police, borough representatives, and Penn State officials. The opposition was fierce — the IFC banned parties on State Patty’s, many bars shut down, CATA stops closed and students were only allowed one guest per room if they lived on campus. It also came with fear that State Patty’s destruction could further ruin Penn State’s reputation following the Sandusky case. All of the opposition efforts worked. Arrest numbers dropped for the first time since the holiday’s inception. State College Police reported that they made 222 arrests and handled 399 calls. The chart below, from the 2012 State Patty’s Day After Action Report, demonstrates the 2012 crime level dip.
In 2013, Penn State paid off the downtown bars to stay closed for the event for the first time. Arrests and crime levels dropped significantly in 2013 after the bold new initiative. State College Police issued 138 citations this weekend and fielded 327 calls. Overall, police saw a crime level drop of about 37 percent from the previous year. The one guest per dorm room rule stayed in effect, as did the IFC’s party ban.
Last year’s State Patty’s Day crime rates continued the downward trend. Penn State paid the bars to close again and all of the other rules from the past two years stayed in place. In fact, rules got stricter last year — for example, sorority members weren’t allowed to have any guests visit them if they lived on the organization’s floor in the residence halls. Total crime levels for last year’s celebration decreased 47 percent from the year before. Penn State and State College police made only 102 arrests combined.
All of that brings us to this year’s State Patty’s Day event, which Penn State and State College officials are calling the THAW festival. THAW was created this year to turn State Patty’s Day into a community event in an effort to combat excessive drinking activities.
This year will be different. Bars will be open and fraternities are loosening up on their restrictions. IFC and Panhel are allowing “limited social events” this weekend. THAW events will happen all weekend, and officials are hoping that takes this weekend’s focus away from drinking. Both State College Police Chief Tom King and Penn State Police Chief Tyrone Parham said they are hopeful that this weekend will see another decrease in crime rates from last year’s events. They are encouraging people to come downtown and participate in THAW, whereas in years past the town shut down and discouraged people from participating in State Patty’s Day related events.
While State Patty’s Day might seem like simply a fun day to an average Penn State student, it’s clear that this student-made holiday that started out as an innocent excuse to party is loaded with history. If State College and Penn State officials have it their way, this weekend’s State Patty’s Day could look way different than those that have come before them.