Green day in orange town

By Courtney Klemm

Every March, students begin to look forward to a certain day of green beer, green tongues, beer for breakfast, going to class after the bars, or not even going to class at all. In most areas, people recognize a day like this as St. Patrick’s Day, but the students here at the University have expanded on this Irish drinking holiday and formed one of their own.

“Unofficial St. Pat’s is an excuse to celebrate and party,” said Kelly Bland, senior in Animal Sciences. “It’s just like Greek Reunion or anything like that: an excuse to go out, get drunk and celebrate a holiday that we made up.”

Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day is rumored to have started when students wanted to celebrate the real St. Patrick’s Day on March 17 but couldn’t do this at school because it fell during the University’s spring break. Thus began a new holiday that is celebrated on a Friday and awakens typically lazy students from their beds as early as 6 a.m. to begin drinking.

Bland said she and her roommates are throwing a party at their house with an “authentic” Irish breakfast consisting of eggs, biscuits and gravy, a variety of meats, and of course, a keg. She said she and her roommates will be tapping their keg at 9 a.m., and they are anticipating a large crowd.

Bland said her decision to have a party in the morning resulted in part because of the ruling by the Champaign City Council that the bars wouldn’t be allowed to open until 11 a.m. on Unofficial this year. This is a delay from the previous years in which some bars began operating as early as 8 a.m.

Bland said she understands that this ordinance was passed as an effort to curb binge drinking on Unofficial, but isn’t sure how effective it will be.

“I see the need for it, but I don’t think it will be stopping anyone from getting drunk early,” she said. “We’re still starting at nine, just not at the bars this year.”

Matt Davison, senior in Communications and a former Illini Media Company employee, said he feels the bar opening times being pushed back is the beginning of a move by the University and community to do away with Unofficial.

“It seems as if the University is trying to crack down on Unofficial,” Davison said. “When I was a freshman, anything went. When it came out that the U of I was the number four best party school in the nation, it seems they are trying to now get it to be more of an academic school. I think the school is trying to crack down on our ‘party’ status.”

Davison said this is the first year he and his friends are planning to go to the bars on Unofficial, but because the bars will be opening later, they will be getting a keg of green beer at their apartment and plan to begin drinking before 7 a.m.

In fact, many students said they are planning on starting to drink just as early as previous years, whether in apartments, houses or even the University residence halls.

“The general attitude in my dorm is that it’s going to be pretty crazy; our (resident advisor) is even having a floor meeting about all the rules and stuff for it,” said Christine Ziegenfuss, freshman in LAS. “I’ve heard of a lot of classes being cancelled because professors don’t want to deal with the drunk people anymore.”

And for those classes that don’t get canceled, students are just as willing to show up intoxicated if they feel they cannot afford to miss class. Chris Massie, sophomore in ACES, said he has planned his schedule on Unofficial to the hour, and classes will not deter him.

“I plan on kicking the day off with some beer pong at 6 a.m. and continue until my first class at 9:00,” Massie said. “Between 10 and 11 a.m. I’ll take whiskey shots, and 11:00 is my next class. Then I’ll come back (to my fraternity house) and drink beers until I pass out.”

Although Massie is not planning on going to the bars on Unofficial, he said he was frustrated that the opening times were pushed back because he wants to go next year when he is the legal age of 21.

With all of the students focusing on drinking and festivities on Unofficial, there have been concerns voiced by faculty, community members and police about the disruptions in student life that the so-called holiday causes.

Davison said he feels the negative attitudes toward Unofficial are unreasonable, but not surprising.

“If it wasn’t this, it would be something else,” he said. “Indiana has the ‘Little Five,’ Madison has Halloween and so on. It’s one day out of the year for the students here to be irresponsible and have a connection with something that no other school has.”

Davison said he feels students will continue to celebrate Unofficial regardless of the strict restrictions that may happen in the future.

“Everyone takes all stops out, and it always seems that when Unofficial is here, the weather always turns out great,” he said. “I don’t want to say students love Unofficial because it’s a full day of debauchery.but it is so, that’s what makes it fun.”