Special Reports

Revelers, police take to the streets

People dressed in green for State Patty's Day walk along Beaver Avenue to get to house parties since few bars were open early Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010. CDT/Michelle Bixby
People dressed in green for State Patty's Day walk along Beaver Avenue to get to house parties since few bars were open early Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010. CDT/Michelle Bixby

STATE COLLEGE — Temperatures in the mid-to high 30s Saturday fueled State Patty's Day revelers, who hit the streets to party early, even with restrictions on bars and fraternities.

By 1 p.m., revelers clad in green lined the streets of downtown and the Highlands neighborhood.

During the morning and early afternoon hours, snowball fights were the biggest problem police dealt with. But that quickly changed as the day carried on.

Frustrated residents

Around 2 p.m. at the home of State College borough Councilwoman Theresa Lafer, a steady stream of partygoers was visible from the French doors that go to out her porch.

Lafer, who lives at the corner of Foster Avenue and Garner Street, watched the students out her window as her poodle, KC, received some loving pets from her.

Young men and women, most wearing some form of bright green, walked up and down Garner Street in small groups. Some had hoodies and coats, and there were the occasional passers-by clad in just green short-sleeved T-shirts and no outerwear.

“It’s down this year,” Lafer said. “I think it has something to do with the weather. So far, there are only groups of five or six today. Last year, this is what it looked like at 8:30 or 9 a.m. Last year, you’d see 20 or 30 at a time.”

As Lafer watched, she said that much of the year she enjoys living close to town, and that she and her husband, Mark, even enjoy watching some of the celebrations when they don’t get out of hand. State Patty’s Day, though, is not one of those times.

“There are days when it is fun to watch — when they graduate and even when they let off a little steam when exams are over. But this manufactured holiday has to be the single-most worst day of the year,” she said.

Lafer said she believed most people celebrating Saturday would have a good time and not be a problem, but there have been enough problems in the past that she and other borough residents are frustrated. A newer trend that has her concerned is the combination of alcohol and energy drinks like Red Bull. Soon after mentioning that, a Red Bull promotional vehicle drove down Garner Street.

“Look over there,” she said, pointing to three girls huddled together.

Three young women wearing green deely boppers were slowly moving down the sidewalk. The middle one was clearly having trouble walking and the other two were helping her.

“It’s 2 in the afternoon,” Lafer said. “At least this one has her friends helping her.”

“You see,” she said. “They are out to take advantage of it.”

Enjoying the day

Across Garner Street, members of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity were out on the porch getting some air. They were concerned about their group’s reputation.

“I hope this doesn’t put us in a bad light,” said one, who wanted to be identified as Mike V. “It’s easy to target the fraternities.”

Another Pi Kappa Phi member who identified himself as Alex D. agreed.

“State Patty’s Day is fun,” he said. “It’s harmless. With the new regulations, it’s not as fun as it was in the past. But we’re not here to get out of hand. We just want to enjoy the day.”

Celebrations start early

Judging by the Centre LifeLink EMS ambulance log, the State Patty’s Day party started very early Saturday morning.

From midnight until about 3 a.m., crews were running alcohol-related calls nonstop.

“It was busier than a normal Friday,” said director Kent Knable.

LifeLink crews noticed that most of their patients were from out of town and had come in just for the occasion.

One of those visitors was a 20-year-old who fell down a stairwell at University Terrace apartments. The man was on his way to visit a friend, who later found him at the bottom of the steps with blood gushing from his head.

Five beers into the day, the man slurred his words as he apologized to ambulance crews for “taking up their time.”

Blood was all over his green shirt and khaki pants.

In the 24 hours between 6 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday, there were 32 calls that required medical attention. Fourteen were alcohol related. Three were traumas not related to alcohol; three were assaults not

“It was an extremely busy day,” State College police Sgt. John Wilson said around 6:30 p.m. Wilson was in charge of the day shift, and said his officers saw a “huge number of parties” both at apartments and at fraternities.

“We had a lot of alcohol related calls,” Wilson said.

Statistics will be compiled by police today. But without looking at numbers, Wilson said, “It sure seems as busy or busier than last year.”

“There’s just a lot of people out there,” he said. “A lot of people.”

By 6 p.m., police already had someone in custody for assaulting a police officer, and another person arrested for resisting arrest.

A surprising crowd

Rathskeller bartender Chris Frasca was pleasantly surprised during the early afternoon on State Patty’s. Day

He’d braced himself for the equivalent of a football weekend, but at around 1:30 p.m. Saturday, there were only a few dozen people in the bar, and most of them weren’t even students celebrating the made-up holiday. In fact, most of them were decidedly 30 years older than the average State Patty’s Day celebrant.

“It’s not anything like I expected,” Frasca said, looking around. “I was expecting to jump in right away. It’s fine, though, nice and easy.”

Frasca was working a double shift Saturday — his normal hours — and got into the bar at 10:30 and was working until 4. After a four-hour break, he was planning to come back and work until close. While he was anticipating making a lot of money from the State Patty’s Day crowd, he didn’t mind the down time.

The bar wasn’t running any specials and opened at its normal time, said Frasca, who worked last State Patty’s Day.

“We’re certainly not going to cater to (the) crowd,” he said.

‘Trying to be responsible’

Seated casually around a long wooden table at Rathskeller, below a basement window, was the evidence of how popular State Patty’s Day has grown in four short years.

Six people were sharing a Coors Light pitcher, but only two of them sipping from the translucent cups were actual Penn Staters.

Though they were all enthusiastically pro-State Patty’s, it was a pretty low-key outing for the group, which boasted a 2009 alumnus, three visitors from Kutztown University, a Penn State graduate student and only one undergraduate.

The Rathskeller was the first place they started, Kutztown student Kyle Travelet said.

“We’re trying to be responsible and not get wasted at 7 a.m.,” said alumnus Spenser Shumacher. “You realize that going out in the early morning is a little ridiculous.”

Sara Ganim can be reached at 231-4616. CDT correspondents Eric Smith and Lauren McCormack contributed to this report.