Hair was big, music was better and parties were wilder. The disco era’s motto was bigger, better and bolder, and Plattsburgh State students were not ones to shy away from that lifestyle — especially not on St. Patrick’s Day weekend. It was a lifestyle that put a myriad of peoples lives at risk, a lifestyle that forever changed the academic schedule and sprung a possible tradition — St. Platty’s Day.
Back in the ’70s, Plattsburgh was the place to be on St. Patrick’s Day weekend. History Professor Douglas Richard Skopp and Vice President of Student Affairs Bryan Hartman talk about a downtown nightlife that was incomparable to Plattsburgh’s current nightlife. Students from neighboring cities and towns would visit Plattsburgh to celebrate the Irish holiday. On one occasion, one of the establishments was so crowded that a beam in the second floor broke, but the floor fortunately didn’t cave. That same night, a student fell off a fire escape and was injured, but the paramedics couldn’t get to the student because of the huge crowd.
Concerned with the safety of the students and the community, both the mayor and the chief of police at the time asked former PSUC President Joseph Burke to change the academic schedule. After that meeting, PSUC students celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in Plattsburgh for the last time in 1980 — that is until former roommates and PSUC alumni Martin Casey and Michael Granger initiated St. Platty’s Day, an early celebration of the Irish holiday.
St. Platty’s Day came about when the two former students were sitting in their rooms discussing their plans for St. Patrick’s Day. It suddenly hit them that PSUC students attend one of the few schools where students don’t get to celebrate the holiday together because of the early Spring Break. Not long after their conversation, Granger sent a tweet that sparked an unexpected interest among the college community. With the accommodating bars downtown, Granger didn’t have any problems organizing the first St. Platty’s Day within two to three weeks.
Like any successful event, St. Platty’s Day kept evolving every year. Last year, St. Platty’s Day was more organized, and Granger coordinated with Plattsburgh City Police to assure the students’ safety. This year, students have the opportunity to give back as they have fun. They will be able to buy T-shirts from which the proceeds will go to the Plattsburgh City Police’s Animal Abuse Fund.
Donating money to the Plattsburgh City Police’s Animal Abuse Fund was a natural step for Granger, who used to donate his time to the now-closed Northern Adirondack Animal Shelter.
“I wanted to donate there originally, but when I heard it closed down, I still wanted to donate to anything that had to do with animals. I had two dogs that passed away this year, so I wanted to give back somehow,” Granger said.
One of the establishments that will be participating for a second year is Off the Hookah, which will be open 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. General Manager Devin Hilts said there will be a raffle, and they will offer giveaways to students before they head to the next bar on the schedule.
Though the schedule has many students thinking St. Platty’s Day is a bar-crawl, Granger, who’s organizing St. Platty’s Day for the last time, is adamant about it not being one.
“The whole purpose is not to drink. The purpose is to get together and enjoy each other’s company. It’s a great way, now that it has been going on for three years, to have the alumni going back up to see friends who are still there,” Granger said.
Though the sole purpose of the gathering might not be to drink, Assistant Chief of University Police Jerry Lottie said University Police do recognize a pattern when large groups of students get together.
“We do notice an increase (in crime and accidents) when students tend to get together for large parties, (which is) due to alcohol consumption, and I guess also because of the group mentality,” he said.
Though both the college and University Police have noticed this pattern, they doubt the incident in the ’70s will be repeated. And since St. Platty’s Day is an off-campus engagement, neither the college nor University Police will concern themselves with the events of St. Platty’s Day.
“We will be doing our regular patrols and monitoring situations to make sure that if we hear something, we will be sharing that information,” Lottie said, hoping that students stay responsible.
Granger, who hopes to see St. Platty’s Day evolve into a tradition, hopes students do exercise sound judgment.
“I always want to remind everyone to abide by the rules and law, so that if someone wants to continue next year, he then holds the option to do so,” he said.
Email Winta Mebrahti at firstname.lastname@example.org