She created the Facebook event as a joke — but within 24 hours, Kayla Ardell Balamuta said she was shocked to find thousands of people already planning to attend “State Patty’s Day 2011.”
Slated for Feb. 26, it went from 13 attendees to almost 600 overnight Tuesday, Balamuta (senior-journalism) said.
Between 4:45 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. Wednesday, the tally jumped from 1,223 to 3,000, and the event exploded to more than 6,000 prospective participants by press time.
“It’s kind of crazy,” Balamuta said. “I didn’t expect it to blow up that quickly.”
Balamuta said she recently contacted State Patty’s Day founder Joe Veltre, Class of 2010, for an article she was writing for a class project on the growing tradition, and he told her he wasn’t interested in celebrating the holiday.
So she said she decided to take the reigns.
“Basically, it’s my ‘super-senior’ year and I’ve participated in the past State Patty’s Days,” Balamuta said. “So I wanted to continue the tradition for those that are younger than me.”
Veltre could not be reached for comment by press time.
As of Wednesday night, the event’s Facebook wall was inundated with comments from others who, like Balamuta, are eager to turn State College green again this February.
But as the event has grown in popularity, the celebration has come with a price: Last year’s State Patty’s Day weekend logged 365 total calls to State College police, 160 arrests and 24 alcohol overdoses. Of the 241 citations issued in connection with the holiday, only 91 were issued to current Penn State students.
Newly elected Interfraternity Council President Dan Florencio said statistics seem to suggest it’s those from outside Happy Valley — not Penn State students — who are causing most of the problems on State Patty’s Day.
He said it’s ultimately up to the presidents of Penn State’s fraternity chapters to address State Patty’s Day celebrations, but the stance of the IFC Executive Board is clear.
“We’re strongly against any holiday that celebrates excessive drinking and we’re going to continue to be leaders in addressing these issues,” Florencio (senior-philosophy) said. “As evidenced by past State Patty’s Days, it’s literally just excessive drinking.”
Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said she preferred not to call State Patty’s Day a “holiday” at all, instead calling it an “irresponsible,” “made-up” and
“People think they’re creating a tradition,” Powers said. “But the results of past years’ emergency room visits and general destruction would not indicate that this is an opportunity to connect with each other.”
Despite the opposition, Balamuta said she’s planning on enjoying next year’s event, and she said it’s ultimately up to students to behave responsibly on State Patty’s Day.
And Florencio said he hopes students take into account the impact their actions on State Patty’s Day might have on the community before they step out for this year’s event.
“I’m from State College, so I kind of have a unique stake in this,” Florencio said. “But it’s the responsibility of students to behave in a safe manner and take care of our town — it’s home.”