Planning for Thaw, the proposed event that would fill the weekend normally reserved for the controversial State Patty’s Day revelries in State College, is in the works.
Penn State Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims said in an email that the proposed event would be a music, film and comedy festival concept. Sims had earlier discussed a tentative date for the event being Feb. 27-March 1, 2015.
Sims said that he and borough Manager Tom Fountaine co-chaired the State Patty’s Day Task Force for years with the ambition of ending State Patty’s Day and filling the void left during that weekend with “an event benefiting a thriving college community, one that would be appealing to students and permanent residents alike.”
Sims said the task force was not meant to organize a festival but that members intended to talk with the leadership of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, local promoters, the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau and others to ask if they would be interested in organizing a replacement event.
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Visitors Bureau Executive Director Betsey Howell confirmed that Arts Fest Executive Director Rick Bryant and Tim Crockett, manager of Levels Nightclub on East College Avenue, were the individuals heading the planning of the event.
Neither Bryant nor Crockett could be reached for comment.
Highlands Civic Association President Susan Venegoni said in an email that members of her organizaion “have spoken out about the proposed event, and its continued planning has been confirmed by the university and the borough via discussions and emails over the past few days.”
Venegoni has been an outspoken opponent of the event.
“This feels like an approach that if you can’t beat them, join them,” Venegoni said at a June 9 Borough Council meeting. “We think it will reverse the progress we’ve made the last few years.”
Sims, however, said that although neither the university nor the borough is organizing the event, he sees support for it and said public safety would be taken into account.
“I’m quite sure that students, residents, commercial interests and others have been and will continue to be involved in any event that materializes,” Sims said, “just as I am confident that both the borough and the university will be deeply involved in plans related to the necessary public safety and security concerns that such events always present.”
Fountaine said he thought the event was happening, but did not have much information about the festival itself.
“It’s intended to be an event attractive to the whole community,” he said.
State Patty’s Day, an informally organized annual event that typically results in a high level of drinking and raucous activity by university students and visitors, is held during the weekend between Thon and the beginning of spring break. Borough and university officials have taken various measures to curb activities over the years, including making payments to bars to remain closed during the weekend.
Assistant to the manager for community engagement Centrice Mulfinger said she wanted to stress that the borough was not involved in the planning of Thaw.
“Borough members were involved in planning and task force for the 2014 State Patty’s Day,” she said. “Once the planning was complete, the borough stepped back entirely.”