0

Police, Penn St. target St. Patty's Day lookalike celebration

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Bars served green beer. Stores sold green shirts and party hats. Revelers took to the streets at dawn.

The unofficial holiday known as ''State Patty's Day'' in this college town has looked a lot like St. Patrick's Day celebration, except it falls two weeks before the traditional Irish holiday.

Now, police, businesses and student leaders are trying to crack down this year on the event they say is just an excuse for a day of excessive drinking and destructive behavior.

Fraternities voted to ban wine and hard alcoholic drinks for events on Saturday -- the day of this year's State Patty's Day -- and their parties will have increased security and monitoring. Gatherings will be smaller with socials limited to around 50 guests.

The student government association joined other student groups to pledge to encourage responsible drinking. After some bars opened in the morning in previous years, tavern association members have voted against offering green beer or other unusual specials, and to keep regular business hours.

By Thursday, at least two establishments had decided to close entirely. Mangers at the Shandygaff and the Lion's Den both said they were trying to send a message.

''I really don't understand what the celebration is about,'' said Chris Rosengrant, operations manager at the Lion's Den. ''I thought it would be a great statement to make for the promotion of responsible drinking.''

At the University of Illinois, police are again preparing for the so-called ''early St. Patrick's Day'' celebration scheduled for March 5. Authorities in recent years had started cracking down on the event, started about a dozen years ago, after too many disruptions in classrooms, said Lt. Skip Frost of the university's police department.

Festivities now are mainly focused around invitation-only private parties, Frost said. Security guards used to monitor athletic events are stationed at lecture halls, though Frost said visitors from outside the school and the community typically cause most problems.