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A More Raucous State Patty’s Day Returns

While perhaps not a return to its most destructive peak, State Patty’s Day returned to Penn State with a level of raucousness not seen since at least 2012. Crime numbers won’t be out until Tuesday, but it’s safe to say the massive sea of green shirts downtown on Saturday exceeded the pseudo-holiday’s depleted prominence from the past several years.

“This year was busier than last,” said State College Police Lieutenant Bradley Smail, who referred to the day by name, despite university officials avoiding the words ‘State Patty’s Day.’ “There were a lot of green shirts.”

Although police wouldn’t yet disclose arrest numbers, Lt. Smail did go over some of the most egregious behavior at police briefing yesterday. Highlights include:

  • A Wings Over Driver was jumped when making a delivery on Waupelani Drive.
  • Two students reported having teeth broken as a result of fights.
  • Police found a man unconscious in front of the Minit Mart entrance, covered in vomit.

Police say full crime numbers will be released on Tuesday after all citations are processed. It seems clear, though, whatever the numbers say, activity downtown far exceeded that of the previous three years, during which the university expended numerous resources to combat the drinking holiday that many see as destructive.

State Patty’s Day saw a decline in prominence over the previous three years, mostly due to various Penn State initiatives and recommendations from a State Patty’s Day task force. The university paid off all the downtown bars in 2013 and 2014 to stay closed, and many voluntarily closed last year. The lack of a bar scene likely deterred many out-of-towners, who typically make up the majority of the arrests, from coming into State College. Recent years have seen fraternities ban parties on State Patty’s Day weekend, apartment complexes ban parties and residence halls adopt no-guest policies. All of these efforts resulted in crime numbers falling to nearly half of State Patty’s Day’s peak in 2009-2011.

Most of these initiatives were rolled back this year. Every bar opened — at least for a time. Fraternities allowed limited “one on one” parties with other sororities. Residence halls — aside from sorority floors — rolled back the no-guest policies. Apartments loosened party restrictions. All of this likely contributed to a more raucous State Patty’s Day than we’ve seen in recent years.

More than half of the bars in the downtown area were forced to close early due to rowdiness. After breaking up multiple fights, Phyrst owner Mike Fullington confirmed that the situation became “too out of control” and he was forced to shut down by mid-evening. Other bars, like Cafe 210 West, the Shandygaff, the Brewery, the Lion’s Den, and others followed suit.

Unofficial numbers also have ambulance calls up from the previous two State Patty’s Days.

All in all, it will be interesting to see how the university — which was taken by surprise at the resurgence — approaches the issue in the next year. State Patty’s Day 2016 was far from the most destructive in the holiday’s 10-year history, but Penn State leaders are likely to look unfavorably on the slide back toward the pre-task force era.

If we learned anything this weekend, it’s that State Patty’s Day wasn’t ready to die out quite yet.

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