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A 9-Year-Old Tradition, State Patty’s Day Will See Big Changes

Penn State Police Chief Tyrone Parham won’t even say the words “State Patty’s Day.”

“We’re not calling it that. We’re told that [this weekend] is going to be called THAW,” he said.

Officials have diligently worked over the past few months to try to make this State Patty’s Day weekend — or as Parham called it, “that SP Day” — different than the rest by creating the THAW festival in an attempt to turn the destructive student-created holiday into a positive community event. This isn’t anywhere near the first effort from the university and the borough to combat State Patty’s Day, but it is by far the biggest distraction that’s ever been created.

Despite these opposition efforts, State Patty’s Day is still scheduled for Saturday. According to its Facebook event, about 6,500 people have already marked that they are “going” as of Thursday night.

Major Changes

State Patty’s has gone through major changes since its original celebration in 2007, and regardless of THAW’s success, this State Patty’s Day is definitely going to be different for a few reasons.

First of all, the bars will be open, which hasn’t happened in quite some time. The past two years, Penn State paid the bars to shut down during the holiday, and even before that, some bars chose to close on their own. This year, Penn State’s Student Parking Endowment ran dry, leaving the university without the necessary funds to pay off the bars.

Another major change that State Patty’s will see this year is, of course, the THAW Festival. THAW events started earlier this week and will continue throughout the weekend in an attempt to provide an alternative to the excessive drinking that has historically occurred on State Patty’s Day. THAW organizers are hoping their event can help combat the drinking holiday, THAW’s media contact Vinh Vuong said.

“I think the students and the local residents are fed up with the event and are ready to move forward,” he said. “We’ve already heard of students walking into some businesses asking them to not sell State Patty’s Day apparel.”

Unlike on State Patty’s Days in years past, State College and Penn State officials are inviting and encouraging students and community members to flock to the downtown area to participate in THAW events, State College Police Chief Thomas King said.

“We need people to use these venues. We need people to come into town, and I think that in itself helps keep control of things by having more sober people around,” he said.

Besides these major changes, smaller details will be different this weekend. For example, fraternities and sororities will allow “limited social events,” whereas in years past, fraternity parties have been banned on State Patty’s Days.

There is also an attempt to make this weekend more localized. More than half of the problems on State Patty’s Day have come from out-of-towners, especially students from other universities, King said. He’s hoping that this weekend isn’t just a “drunk fest” and that THAW isn’t something that will “attract students from other universities to come and cause havoc in the community.”

Police Patrol

One thing that won’t be changing, however, is the way the police are handling this weekend. Despite hopes that crime levels will drop this weekend as the result of THAW, Penn State and State College Police are planning on treating Saturday as they previously have for State Patty’s Day.

Since they don’t really know what to expect, all of the State College police officers will be working this Saturday, King said. Penn State Police and other county police forces will also help patrol State College and campus. The Pennsylvania State Police will provide extra patrolling in State College, as well as throughout all of Centre County.

“Because we don’t know what to expect, we’d rather have too much staff than not enough,” King said.

Although he’s expecting violations to go down from previous State Patty’s Days, Parham said police will “likely be pretty aggressive.” Since more officers will be out patrolling, arrest numbers are likely to be higher than the average weekend in State College.

Similar to how they always have on State Patty’s Day, police will be asking for maximum fines and “severe consequences” for people who commit crimes like underage drinking, theft, and public drunkenness, Parham said.

THAW’s Impact

Though police are treating this weekend as they have in the past, they are hopeful that crime levels will drop. Parham said the goal is for crime numbers to “drastically decrease” this year, and from what he’s been hearing, many students are hoping for the same thing.

“It’s great to hear our current students wanting to move on to some sort of better tradition,” he said.

Some of the THAW events that are scheduled include a film festival, live musical performances, comedy acts, the THAW 5K race, and State Day of Service. Vuong said the variety of events will appeal to everyone, from famillies to students to young professionals.

“Like any other event/festival that is in its first year, there will be mistakes and learning experiences but I believe this will be a very successful event as we are a strong community. The events are unique, local and the lineup offers a wide variety of acts,” he said.

THAW might not draw too many out-of-towners in its first year, but King said he hopes it will eventually turn into a winter festival that draws people from all over Pennsylvania and the east coast. From a crime standpoint, he said he hopes this weekend turns into a normal event weekend, like Arts Festival or Blue-White Weekend, instead of one focused solely on drinking.

“I think what will happen over the next couple years is the name State Patty’s Day will be replaced with THAW weekend so you’ll have THON weekend, then THAW weekend, and then spring break,” he said. “And we could use some thawing out this year so it seems appropriate.”

King has a pretty reasonable goal for this weekend — that everyone goes to at least one THAW event, enjoys themselves, and has fun.

“Whether or not that involves alcohol or not will have to be their decision, but if it involves alcohol, then to be reasonable about it and not to treat it as ‘How drunk can I get?’ but ‘How can I have a fun weekend in which I do all the things that I enjoy to do, but I didn’t do anything that would embarrass me or my family or anyone else that I care deeply about?’” he said.

About the Author

Mindy Szkaradnik

Mindy is a senior majoring in Print Journalism, Spanish, and Global and International Studies. She is the 12th member of her family to attend Penn State, she loves Bruce Springsteen, and her friends are always making fun of her for talking too much about study abroad. She can be reached on Twitter (@mszkarad) or via email ([email protected]).

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