CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Police still handed out tickets over the weekend, but Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day is nothing like it used to be.
“People died, people were injured, people went to the hospital with alcohol poisoning,” said Urbana Mayor and Liquor Commissioner, Diane Marlin. “I saw first-hand what unofficial was like in its hay day and it was dangerous.”
Unofficial started in the 90’s, it was marketed to students by the bars as a way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day early, so they could still dress up and drink green beer with friends before everyone left for spring break.
“I’m all for celebrating and having fun but this event had gotten out of hand,” said Marlin. “Students would start drinking very early in the morning and come to classes drunk it went on throughout the weekend.”
But in the last few years it hasn’t been the same and University of Illinois Police Chief Alice Cary says the pandemic is to thank.
“Since covid, since I’ve been here, it hasn’t really existed,” said Chief Cary.
Despite the severe weather on Friday students still celebrated but this time when it did get out of hand, they called the police.
“There was one large party that night that was reported 400 plus individuals, they actually came and asked our officers to shut that party down so there was cooperation there,” said Chief Cary.
Chief Cary says they only gave out 12 tickets for minors in possession, but 5 businesses got in trouble for selling or serving people who are underage.
“There was 9 establishments that are student patrol officers who are under 21 went undercover in and attempted to buy alcohol of those 9, five failed,” said Chief Cary.
She says that is an alarming amount, but the chaotic nature surrounding unofficial has at least tapered off.
The assistant police chief says in the 5 years before the pandemic, 99 tickets were written, there were 16 medical calls with ambulances, 30-40 hospital walk-ins and 2-3 arrests a year.
“Happy to see it go,” said Mayor Marlin.
Chief Cary says they prepare the same every year and will be ready if things pick back up again. She’s hopeful that it won’t.