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Penn State, State College Replacing State Patty's Day with Arts Festival

by on June 10, 2014 10:29 AM

State Patty's Day could be a thing of the past in 2015.

Penn State administrators and State College officials are in talks with an arts group to potentially replace a winter nuisance event with a community arts affair.

Penn State and Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts confirmed Tuesday that talks are underway and an announcement of an official event could happen during the annual Arts Fest, which is slated for July 9 to July 13.

"The goal with State Patty's Day has always been to reduce the popularity of the event to the point where it's an unattractive option to out-of-town visitors and others alike," Penn State Student Affairs Vice President Damon Sims said in an email.

"The efforts of the past two years in particular have whittled away at the event to where we believe it can be replaced with an alternative that's not simply a drinking festival, but rather the kind of community festival a vibrant college town deserves. It should be appealing to students, visitors, and permanent residents alike."

Sims says he has reached out to Tom Fountaine, State College borough manager; Rick Bryant, executive director with the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts; and Tim Crockett with night club Levels, to develop an alternative event to State Patty's Day.

Bryant confirmed preliminary plans are in the works,

"Everybody at the table, we all have the goal of making State College and Penn State a better place to live," he says.

Bryant and Crockett are leading a planning group, which includes representatives from the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau, downtown vendors, students and other groups.

The preliminary event would be a "Thaw" festival featuring music, film and comedy throughout downtown and on Penn State's campus from Feb. 27 to March 1, Sims says.

Sims says funding for the event has not yet been finalized. However, he says ticket sales and sponsorships are expected to allow organizers to recoup those costs.

In 2007, Penn State students created State Patty's Day as an alternative drinking celebration after learning St. Patrick's Day fell during spring break. Since then, the event has created alcohol-related mayhem downtown.

The university and borough – including Penn State and State College police – have made concerted efforts to reduce participation in the event by following a zero-tolerance policy and offering cash incentives, roughly $375,000 in all, for bars to close their doors during the event.

The university and borough have said numerous times that once crime declines, the ultimate goal is to replace State Patty's Day with an event that attracts a cross-generational crowd.

Over the last two years, authorities have reported a drop in crime and alcohol-related emergencies during the event. This year, crime dropped nearly 47 percent compared to 2013 and 63 percent compared to 2011, the year the event saw the highest level of related crime.

Not everyone supports a festival to replace State Patty's Day. Susan Venegoni, president of the Highlands Neighborhood Association, told borough council Monday night that the group opposes the plan.

Venegoni argues a festival would still promote drinking and create rowdiness in the neighborhood. Additionally, she argues such an event would make it difficult for officials and the university to enforce previous policies, such as guest limitations for apartment complexes and campus residents.

A festival, Venegoni says, is not a solution and instead a "can't beat 'em, join 'em" approach.

"We do not support an event to replace State Patty's Day," she says.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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