With light snow falling on Moro Street on Saturday morning, a young woman in all green had already made a decision.
“Worst Fake Patty’s Day ever,” she told her friends.
It was not a good start to my first Fake Patty’s Day. Although I have lived in Manhattan for about a year and half, and I visited Manhattan several times while I was in college, this year was the first time I was purposefully waking up early to get down to Aggieville to experience the fake holiday, which was created so that K-State students, who were usually on spring break during the real St. Patrick’s Day, could celebrate early.
But the weather was not going to stop me. I was still going to drink a pint of Guinness, and I was still going to get to the bottom of the most burning question in my mind: What is the true meaning of Fake Patty’s Day?
After passing the ladies who were clearly not happy about the snow, I made my first stop at what I believed to be the most appropriate bar to celebrate a fake Irish holiday: O’Malley’s Alley. As you might guess, the street was pretty close to empty, but the bar was not. Green shirts, hats and sunglasses were mostly covered up with heavy coats and stocking caps. While I ordered my pint of Guinness and contemplated getting closer to my Irish roots, a man with bright green hair sticking straight up into the sky appeared. His name is Brandon McLaughlin, presumably of Irish heritage. I hoped he would have my answer.
McLaughlin came up to Manhattan from Winfield, visiting friends who live in Manhattan, he said. While New Found Glory, a pop punk band, blared in the bar, he told me the green mohawk was a fun way to celebrate.
He’s studying chemistry at Cowley Community College, he said. But the mohawk represents what Fake Patty’s is to him.
“It’s all about faking it,” he said. “Like the style, I’m not a punk. But I thought I’d fake it. I’m (actually) kind of nerdy.”
After finishing my Guinness, I walked outside onto Moro Street to see what was happening. The snow was beginning to fall harder, but a group of people were in the middle of the street playing wiffle ball.
Jacque Bundy, who works at ACME Gifts in Aggieville, was decked out in green and swinging the bat around. Although many people were using the holiday to imbibe, Bundy said the holiday is more than that.
“I think it’s just having fun with friends,” she said.
Although the snow was falling, she said it wouldn’t stop anyone from having a good time.
“Last year it was so nice and it was sunny, and I got sunburnt,” she said. “It’s just something different. I don’t think it’s going to hinder anyone coming out.”
After bidding Bundy adieu, I decided to leave Aggieville to check out where this holiday is really celebrated: at house parties just off of K-State’s campus.
I was nervous the snow was going to keep all the Fakers in their homes, but when I reached the student neighborhoods I was quickly proven wrong by a man on a tree swing wearing a hunting camouflage bodysuit and blaring a duck call horn.
Doug Capps and several of his friends were out in the snow, enjoying some beer and playing some bags (a game in which players toss bean bags; many people in these parts call it cornhole). He and his friends were happy to offer us some drinks.
Capps said he graduated from K-State last spring and felt like coming back for the fake holiday, no matter what the weather was like.
“They said it was going to snow and I knew it would keep my beer cold,” he joked. “I decided to come back to Manhattan and give it one last go around.”
He said the meaning of the holiday is just to have a good time, which was pretty clear to me when he was going nuts on the swing.
At another house party just down the road, another large group was playing yard games in the snow as well. But this one may have been more appropriate for the weather, claiming to be some sort of “Viking chess.”
Jake Trout, a sophomore at K-State, said he was playing Kubb, a lawn game where the players throw wooden batons to try to knock over wooden blocks. While it sounded simple, it looked complicated. So I stuck to discussing the holiday.
Tanner Ternes, who was visiting from Wichita, said the holiday is all about community, which is not something I was planning on hearing from a person wearing a bright green “Sorry Mom” hat.
“To bring everyone from Kansas together,” he said, as someone nearby said “wow,” shocked by the seriousness of his answer. “Everyone parties together. It doesn’t matter what school you go to. If you’re from KU, you’re coming.”
Trout was happy to agree.
“We get to show off our K-State hospitality,” he said. “That’s what makes us special. Bill Snyder would be proud of us.”
As a Jayhawk living in Manhattan, I was happy to hear that. I think I finally know the meaning of Fake Patty’s Day.
Now for another Guinness. Sláinte!