When downtown's celebration of St. Patrick's Day changed forever

Plattsburgh used to be a hot spot for St. Patrick's Day, with people coming from across the nation to enjoy all sorts of festivities, with the result sometimes being quite destructive.

Though you can walk around downtown on March 17 these days without being accosted by drunken revelers, that hasn't always been the case.

Plattsburgh Police Department Lt. Scott Beebe, who has lived in the area all his life, said the general atmosphere has completely transformed.

"It was crazy, but it got out of control," he said. "Things have changed."

The last St. Patrick's Day celebrated in such a manner was in 1978, after a series of less than peaceful celebrations in the heart of Plattsburgh. At that time, the celebrations were putting a lot of pressure from community members, law enforcement and college administration to do something.

State University of New York at Plattsburgh historian Dr. Douglas Skopp witnessed some of the drunk and disorderly conduct that came with celebrating the Irish holiday, when the entire downtown area would be blocked off for the occasion.

"There was wall to wall people in Plattsburgh city streets ... There was a lot of people, and a lot of students, and a lot of public drinking," said Skopp, who added the traditionally dyed green beer was in no shortage.

Bill Laundry, who was and remains head of Student Affairs at the university, said problems downtown were mostly caused by out-of-towners invited by students or coming on their own accord, not the students themselves.

"Originally, it was sort of a Plattsburgh phenomena, it pretty much involved the college, St. Patty's Day and the downtown area and residents," Laundry said. "It was all in the family."

Laundry said the change in the attitude of the crowd, as well as a few other incidents, caused the change in policy.

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