St. Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland, true. And for his troubles he was awarded his day of feasting. However, St. Patrick's Day is one of the days of feasting that falls during the season of Lent. As such, it's observers are allowed to take a break from Lent to honour St. Patrick.

Most people give up alcohol for Lent, and as such, the last time they really got a chance to party was on Fat Tuesday, the time when Mardi Gras is celebrated. So, by the time St. Patrick's Day rolls around, they're ready for a good liquoring up, for the next day, it's back to sobriety.

This explains why both Mardi Gras and St. Patrick's Day have turned into such wild parties and showcases of debauchery. Of course, don't try explaining this to your average fratboy, as he only cares that the beer is green and import beers are half off.

The University of Missouri-Rolla Saint Patrick's Day celebration is one of the longest running celebrations west of the Mississippi. Now entering its 97th straight year, UMR St. Pat's has many long standing traditions and events.

Why does UMR have a Saint Patrick's Day celebration? Saint Patrick is considered to be the Patron Saint of Engineering. Since UMR was founded as a mining/engineering school (the Missouri School of Mines) and remains mostly engineering majors to this day, it seems logical that the school should adopt a St. Pat's celebration. So, in 1908, the first ever St. Pat's celebration in Rolla was held.

The events surrounding the celebration last way longer than just March 17th. Also, due to the vagaries of school scheduling, sometimes our St. Pat's celebration doesn't even occur on March 17th. However, the general format of the event remains the same. A Thursday and Friday in the middle of March are designated "Spring Recess" by the University. These days provide the cornerstone of the Pats celebration.

The week before those two days consists of several events to prime the campus for the following week's celebration. These include "Snake Invasion" in which various campus organizations send representatives to designated "Snake Pits" on campus to stomp rubber snakes into submission using custom shillelaghs in honor of Saint Patrick's conquest of Irish serpents. Also, St. Patrick's Court is chosen, which consists of several positions: Mom, Trumpeteer, Pages, Herald, Guards, Master Guards, and, of course, St. Patrick himself. St. Patrick's Court will appear at many of the events for the following week (including all of the best parties) and are generally considered to be the royalty of campus.

The week of St. Pat's starts with Follies. Follies are comprised of many events and are held at a central location on campus. Participating organizations tell jokes, perform skits, and generally have a good time. There's the greenest person contest, (which is usually decided by the smallest bikini*), sumo suits, and the St. Pat's Jingle contest. It's a great time and always has a large crowd.

On the Wednesday of Pat's week, Court arrives. Formerly, Court would always arrive by rail, but since passenger rail service no longer exists to Rolla, St. Pat usually arrives via manure spreader these days. Court makes their first appearance at Court Arrival, which formally kicks off the St. Patrick's Day celebration. Also, Wednesday is the last day of classes.

Thursday and Friday are Gonzo and Games. The Gonzo is the total event, while the Games happen at the Gonzo. The games include the boat race, in which a certain amount of beer is drunk by a team of people (always fun), the Cudgel Carry, in which a tree is carried down a race course, and other fun events. There's also a beer garden and usually a barbecue. Thursday and Friday are also big party nights, as there aren't any classes and tons of out-of-towners ("imports") with which to have a good time.

Saturday is the culmination of St. Pat's. The parade kicks off that morning, going down Pine Street which has been appropriately painted green. Entries are usually on a theme and are mostly from campus organizations. I could tell a funny story about my one experience with the parade, but some of the perpetrators are still at large and I don't think the statute of limitations has expired yet. Suffice to say, it's a good time and fun is had by all.

After the parade, there's also the Carnival of Knights, which is basically a fair on campus with several events and organizational booths set up. There's also the informal Knighting Ceremony that night, and, of course, more parties.

All in all, St. Patrick's Day at the University of Missouri-Rolla is one of the biggest St. Patrick's Day celebrations in existence. Steeped in tradition, mystery, and beer, hopefully it will continue on well past its upcoming centennial.

*this is because green skin counts more than green clothes, and it's an engineering school, so there aren't very many women.

and my own drunken memory.

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