When he got the idea for Fake Patty’s Day in 2007, Pat Atchity had no idea he was going to create one of the biggest college parties in the country.
“I hope a lot of people don’t hate me,” Atchity said in a phone interview with the Mercury.
Atchity, who now lives in Kansas City, Mo., said that the idea for the pre-holiday event sprang from an established Manhattan tradition: the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Atchity said that the parade had been moved to the weekend of spring break that year to keep the students who were staying in town more involved, but Atchity and a few other students weren’t exactly thrilled with the change.
“We didn’t like that,” Atchity said “So I got together with the owner of Tubby’s and talked about doing a fake St. Patty’s Day celebration.”
Atchity, who was the underwriting director at K-State’s radio station, The Wildcat 91.9, pitched the idea as a promotion to then-station manager Drew Bartlett. Bartlett approved the idea, and the station went to other bar owners to see if they would want to be part of the event.
“We went to every single bar in Aggieville, and they all bought in,” Atchity said. “We had 3,000 shirts made, Budweiser made signs. The Wildcat 91.9 was making commercials, and just by word of mouth we got it going.”
Still, they didn’t know if the event would be a success. Atchity said that one of the other reasons that the bars bought in was that the business world was feeling the effects of the first wave of the recession.
“The economy wasn’t good at the time, and we were just trying to get people in,” Atchity said. “We didn’t know if it was going to be big or not. I remember the bar owners telling their staff that they might send everyone home early.”
What happened surprised Atchity, the bars and the community. An estimated 6,000 showed up for the first Fake Patty’s Day.
“It took off, and it was a really big event,” Atchity said. “We weren’t prepared for what we had. It was a little bit more out of control.”
Atchity said that he had talked to the Riley County Police Department before the event occurred, but no one was really expecting the size of the crowd to be so large.
Atchity said that some of the recent crowd-control measures, such as shutting down Moro Street during the holiday and making portable bathroom facilities available, weren’t available the first few years, making it more chaotic.
After that, Atchity graduated from K-State and became the general manager of Tubby’s and the Fake Patty’s Day coordinator for three years. His goal was to make the event bigger and more efficient, but also safer and less invasive.
“After the first year there were some people who weren’t happy about it,” Atchity said. “We put more security up, and one of our main focuses was crowd control.”
Atchity even implemented a clean-up team that went out into Aggieville after the event was over.
Despite those measures, many residents don’t like Fake Patty’s Day. But from Atchity’s point-of-view, the good outweighs the bad.
“We weren’t trying to do something big at all,” he said. “We never thought it would be the way it is now. There are a lot of communities that would love to get an economic push such as this one. It’s awesome for the community for a weekend. It brings people back in.
Look at bars, gas stations and everything that is involved with it; Manhattan has been pretty blessed.”
Atchity also has another prediction for Fake Patty’s Day: it’s here to stay.
“I don’t think it will ever go away,” he said. “It has made its foundation there. It was something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.”