St. Paddy’s celebrations go off without a hitch

Taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather, Wilfrid Laurier University students painted the town green on Saturday to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day; one of the biggest, and most anticipated party days of the year.

Unlike their neighbours an hour down the road in London, Waterloo partiers remained overwhelmingly respectful of law-enforcers despite the crowds of thousands who took to the streets in merriment.

According to Laurier Special Constables Services operations manager Chris Hancocks, this was one of the best St. Patrick’s Days in recent years.
“It was fairly uneventful for us,” said Hancocks. “There was a large amount of people we were keeping our eyes on, but it was all good fun.”
And good fun was had indeed.

“It was a lot crazier than expected,” said fourth-year communications studies student Tim Best. “There were a lot more people than I thought there would be,” he continued, referring to the thousands of green-clad students who, according to CTV, caused police to shut down Ezra Avenue to incoming traffic at 4 p.m.
Police have estimated that 5,000 people were on Ezra Avenue throughout the day, however, not a single arrest was made. Liquor charges and underage drinking tickets did substantially increase from 2011, however according to Olaf Heinzel, public affairs co-ordinator for the Waterloo Regional Police Services (WRPS), those numbers are still relatively low.

“We’re talking about numbers of nine and 22, so nine was last year and 22 was this year, we’re not talking in huge numbers,” he said, referring to the number of underage drinking violations.

Heinzel also mentioned that there were a few instances of revelers sustaining minor injuries, however the large police presence kept things mostly under control.

“Obviously we have a job to do from a policing perspective, our job is to keep people safe,” said Heinzel. “It was a busy day for police from noon on, right through until after midnight but we were grateful for the fact, and we’re sure that the residents in the area and the students who also live there, were grateful for the fact that there were no serious issues or serious concerns apart from the usual ones.”

Despite the heavy police presence, the celebratory atmosphere remained. “They [the police] were generally good,” said Ezra resident and second-year health sciences student Shayna Azoulay-Avinoam. “They were giving a lot of tickets, but it’s their job. I didn’t think they were particularly rude. They were just keeping the peace.”

Only one arrest was made the entire weekend, but it was on Sunday night, and likely had nothing to do with residual St. Paddy’s celebrations.

On campus, Residence Life staff took a preemptive stance in preparing for the weekend. Enforcing a stringent guest policy for the duration of the weekend, Residence Life dons kept student safety top of mind.

“We’re always anxious around St. Patrick’s Day,” said Dave Shorey, associate director, Residence and Learning at Residence Life.

“We’re very concerned in our efforts to ensure student safety and the safety of our communities.”

On duty early morning to late into the night, the Residence Life dons ensured that, as representatives of a public institution, they were upholding provincial alcohol related laws while educating their communities on the dangers associated with underage and binge drinking.

“Our dons are very talented; they’re very strong and they did a wonderful job,” said Shorey.

“The presence [of Residence Life Staff] obviously helps us in these situations, but again we’re just concerned about the safety of our students and we were able to ensure that from the front end, so we looked quite good at the end of it all.”

With no major issues arising on campus, this was undoubtedly a St. Patrick’s Day to remember. As classes draw to a close and summer continues to creep in, the outdoor festivities are sure to continue.

“I think every day should be St. Paddy’s,” joked Azoulay-Avinoam.

“Agreed,” concurred Roslyn Brent, a third-year BBA student lounging in the sun nearby.

–With files from Linda Givetash

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