As a holiday associated with alcoholic revelry fast approaches, preparations are being made across the region to help people celebrate it, and be sure they don’t overdo it.
Even though St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in downtown Albany is on Saturday afternoon.
Two years ago, on the morning before the parade, house parties on a block of Hudson Avenue populated by off-campus fraternities and sororities spilled out onto the streets and the so-called “kegs and eggs” riot erupted.
The problems, which featured overturned cars, vandalized property and rocks and bottles thrown at city police, prompted the University at Albany to change the dates of its mid-semester break so that last year many students were out of town on St. Patrick’s Day. This year, the break week again starts Friday, with students not returning to campus until March 23.
Authorities said that it wasn’t just UAlbany students involved in the 2011 melee that resulted in 40 arrests, six on felony charges of rioting and criminal mischief.
“The university took a stand. We felt the actions of the participants were deplorable,” said Karl Luntta, a UAlbany spokesman. “It was not all University of Albany students but we felt we needed to take action.”
The 63rd annual St. Patrick’s Day parade will step off at 2 p.m. Saturday from the corner of Central Avenue and Quail Street.
The city of Saratoga Springs has also seen problems associated with St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. In 2010 a young man was struck by a car and killed near the corner of Caroline Street and Henry Street after a brawl in the early morning hours after St. Patrick’s Day.
In Saratoga Springs students at Skidmore College are also on their mid-term break until Monday.
“I haven’t seen Skidmore as a big problem the past couple of years,” said Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen.
He said people from other parts of the Capital Region coming to Saratoga to party have been causing some of the problems on Caroline Street, where many of the city’s bars are located.
The biggest police problems in downtown Saratoga Springs come during the warmer summer months, Mathiesen said.
Saratoga Springs police Chief Christopher Cole said the city typically sees larger downtown crowds on St. Patrick’s Day. But even with last year’s usually warm, sunny St. Patrick’s Day on a Saturday things went relatively well, Mathiesen said.
“We don’t expect the same level of problems we see [when St. Patrick’s Day] is on a Friday or a Saturday,” he said.
A week before St. Patrick’s Day in 2012, city police and public safety officials met with downtown bar and restaurant owners to discuss measures to help avert problems. Both Cole and Mathiesen said the bar and restaurant owners and their staffs responded nicely. They instituted programs to train bar security personnel — bouncers — and instructed bartenders to identify people who have had too much to drink and stop serving them.
Cole said he has seen “a significant decrease” in police officers being injured over the past year in the downtown area.
Across Saratoga County, meanwhile, police agencies will be mounting a crackdown on driving while intoxicated in hopes of catching those who don’t know when to say when.
In Schenectady, St. Patrick’s Day problems aren’t as prevalent. Phil Wajda, a spokesman for Union College, said the college hasn’t seen any major problems on St. Patrick’s Day.
Throughout the region, St. Patrick’s Day is a busy time for bars and restaurants, especially those with an Irish theme. At Katie O’Byrne’s in Schenectady, for example, the bar and restaurant will host a St. Paddy’s Day block party starting at 6 p.m. Saturday. A large parking lot adjacent to the Irish bar will be fenced off and two bands will play. Beer will be on tap and hamburgers and other grilled foods will be for sale, said Kerri Wood, a bartender at Katie O’Byrne’s.
At Gaffney’s Restaurant on Caroline Street in Saratoga Springs, live music will be playing from 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday.
“It’s a Sunday, people will probably be out earlier and go home earlier,” said Kim Smith, a longtime manager at Gaffney’s. “It’s one of the holidays that people really look forward to.”