Editor’s Note: Unofficial 2020 is Friday, March 6.
If you haven’t lived in Champaign-Urbana for long, and you weren’t a student at the University of Illinois, you might not be familiar with the annual ritual of Unofficial. That’s short for Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day, the day where Illinois students (and plenty of non-students) drink themselves into oblivion while wearing a lot of green. And it’s coming up this Friday, March 1, in case you hadn’t heard.
This is where we post our annual warning: don’t go anywhere near campus that day, lest you enjoy the smell of urine and vomit. It could be hazardous to your health; driving on campus during a typical school day is a challenge, but on Unofficial it’s downright dangerous.
What is Unofficial and why is it here? The story goes that Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day was started by a Champaign bar owner to drum up business because the students were scheduled to be off campus for Spring Break on March 17, a typically lucrative day for drinking establishments.
Twenty plus years later, Unofficial has a national reputation and draws in revelers from all over the country, which certainly has contributed to the University’s elevated status as a top party school. (If you want to read the entire history, the University Archives have a whole blog post on this topic. Seriously.)
Unofficial is a drain on our community’s resources, there’s no doubt. In a 2012 letter to parents from then University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise, she cited some of the costs including “drunken, sometimes injured, participants tax hospital emergency rooms” and “police agencies … spend tens of thousands of dollars in overtime.” While the cities would love to see this event go away, they’ve taken on other strategies to mitigate the impact, but it’s not going anywhere.
So …. why do I hate Unofficial? It’s quite simple: this has to be one of the most difficult weekends of the year to secure a college-aged babysitter in Champaign-Urbana. Put it up there with New Year’s Eve, even.
You know how hard it is to plan that elusive date night? You know how doubly hard it is to plan that date night out with another couple? This is my “beef” with Unofficial: coincidentally, none of my typical student babysitters are available this weekend.
So much for those best laid plans. Of course, no calendar has this date marked on it. The double date night drought continues.
For the record, we know how ridiculous this sounds, and that’s the humor of it all. We hope the worst thing that happens this Unofficial is that some C-U parents couldn’t have a date night. Stay safe, everyone.
Laura Weisskopf Bleill is the mom-in-chief of chambanamoms.com. She won’t be partying it up on Green Street this Friday night after all.