Celebrate responsibly on St. Patrick’s Day

Law enforcement will be out in full force on Friday

By Laci Gagliano
Sun Post Newspapers

As the saying goes, everybody is Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day. The celebration of the Feast of Saint Patrick spread throughout the world from its origins as a traditional Irish festival, in modern times taking on a more distinctly American flavor of commercialization, with green beer and green clothing becoming the icons of celebrations. Festivities are enjoyed by a widespread demographic, regardless of whether participants have Irish roots.

Diaspora: A brief history of the influx of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the U.S.

The background of St. Patrick’s Day festivities in the U.S. began with a prolific Irish immigration to the country. The staying power of the holiday is due in large part to a phenomenon called Irish diaspora, according to the Irish Times, a news publication based in Dublin. Irish diaspora refers to the large-scale emigration of Irish citizens away from Ireland over the course of several centuries, many of whom sought to reconnect with their cultural heritage, including St. Patrick’s Day.

St. Paul, home of the decades-old annual Irish Fair of Minnesota, is renowned for its enthusiasm for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations because of the high concentration of Irish descendants. However, people across the entire metro take part in the large variety of celebrations happening at local bars, restaurants and public spaces in their own cities. People dressed in green come together, regardless of ethnicity, to appreciate the prolific influence of a culture whose architects once arrived on American soil via treacherous voyages across the seas.

Don’t go overboard

Whatever approach to celebrating floats your boat, local law enforcement officials remind people to play it safe on St. Patrick’s Day. Drinking and driving is a common threat to public safety on the holiday, and want people to know that there are consequences to driving while intoxicated.

“St. Patrick’s Day is one of the busiest nights of the year for bars/restaurants and the police department wants to make sure that everyone gets home safely,” Crystal Police Chief Stephanie Revering said. “What that means is: take a cab, Uber, or call a friend or family member, because we will be out in full force that day arresting anyone who is over the legal limit.”

Revering said 22 of the 181 driving while impaired arrests in 2016 in the city happened in March. According to the most
recently available statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 40 percent of nationwide crash fatalities over the weekend of St. Patrick’s Day in 2013 involved drunk driving. The increase in alcohol consumption rises over the weekend, making it that much more critical to be responsible and take measures to prevent getting behind the wheel while intoxicated.

Robbinsdale Police Chief Jim Franzen said that because St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday this year, there could be a higher likelihood of people failing to map out a safe way home from celebrating.

“For bigger holidays like New Year’s, I think people do plan a lot, which greatly reduces the number of impaired drivers. With St. Patrick’s Day, people don’t normally have that day off, stop and have a few on the way home to celebrate, maybe not planning ahead as they should be,” Franzen said. “That’s fine, as long as you’re keeping track of how much you’re drinking, how much food you’re eating, and how long it’s been since your last drink before getting into your vehicle. It’s also OK to call for a taxi, an Uber, or anything to ensure you get home safely.”

Both Revering and Franzen said police will be out in greater numbers this weekend to enforce laws against driving while intoxicated.

“(People) should also know there’ll be extra enforcement out that night. We all participate in a program called Towards Zero Deaths, which is a grant provided by the state to put extra officers out there who are specifically looking for impaired drivers,” Franzen said.

Contact Laci Gagliano at [email protected]