Students, city prepare for ‘unofficial’

Cassie Buchman, City Editor

Students and businesses alike are getting ready for “Unofficial” this weekend.

“Unofficial” is time where students party. The pseudo-holiday is synonymous with drinking and bar crawls.

Eastern students adopted “Unofficial” placing it week before the University of Illinois’ “Unofficial. ”

Grant Simons, Gateway Liquor manager, said because of “Unofficial,” they have deals on different Irish based liquors.

“We have deals on Guinness, Bailey’s and other Irish creams,” Simons said.

The store is preparing themselves to deal with a weekend that is typically busier than most.

“It’s reminiscent of homecoming,” Simons said. “We usually put an extra guy on, so that we’re fully staffed.”

Despite the weekend’s reputation, Simons said they typically see less people than they do for homecoming. He added he still sees more people than normal.

“The more you sell, the more you gotta stock,” he said.

On the Friday or Saturday nights of past “Unofficial” weekends, roughly 1,200 people come in to the store.

Mike Taylor, The Penalty Box general manager, said they are also preparing for Unofficial.

“We’ve definitely had to buy more food and alcohol than on other weekends because of the people coming down to visit Eastern,” he said. “We get crazy busy. A lot of people come.”

Unofficial gives employees a chance to make more money.

“Our staff loves Unofficial because they make a lot more tips than usual,” he said. “Everyone wants to work, to make more tips.”

This year, those going to the Penalty Box to celebrate Unofficial will see a slightly different atmosphere than in previous years.

“We’re really excited for this year because we remodeled, got a brand new bar,” he said. “Everyone’s gonna come in and see our new food menu, it’s a whole new place than last year.”

He said the bar was given a new Chicago theme.

One student is using this weekends popularity to support a good cause.

Kaelin Kwiatkowski, a senior marketing major, is using “Unofficial” as an opportunity to raise money for charity and complete a project for her Foundations of Entrepreneurship course.

She is selling sunglasses for 5 dollars during the weekend.

“There’s nice weather coming up, people coming up for spring break, and it was the best idea I could come up with,” Kwiatkowski said.

She said she thought the easiest way to sell them was during Unofficial since her deadline was before spring break.

“I thought it would be pretty popular,” she said.

Blanca Aragon, a sophomore nursing major, said this year she would not be able to participate in “Unofficial” because of a social event and work happening on the same day.

Last year, she remembers hanging out at one of the non-Greek houses off campus.

“Basically, its just day drinking,” she said. “Last year, it was from eleven to four or five-ish, I think there was drinking all day.”

Though some people think of Unofficial as a wild weekend, Aragon said she thinks it should not necessarily be seen that way.

“People think students throw stuff, set it on fire,” she said. “Some people might take it to the extreme, but it’s just a social gathering.”

Shannon Thodos, a sophomore elementary education major, said “Unofficial” is not as big of a deal at Eastern as it is at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

“It’s huge at U of I,” she said. “The whole school get together, we just don’t do that.”

Karle Weissenhofer, a sophomore hospitality major, agreed.

“I mean, to be honest, we don’t really celebrate it here,” she said. “It’s more of a thing people do when not involved in Greek life.”

It’s not only students and businesses that are getting ready for Unofficial.  Lt. Brad Oyer of the Charleston Police Department, said the police department will be vigilant just like they are any other weekend.

“We will do our best to provide a safe place for students and retailers alike,” he said. “In a drinking event as Unofficial tends to be, we are going to be increasingly vigilant on alcohol related offenses.”

He said their biggest concern is that the weekend ends as safely as it began.

“In a college town, there have always been alcohol related incidents,” he said.

His advice to those celebrating Unofficial is to be careful and responsible.

“We don’t want to see accidents, we just want everybody to be safe,” Oyer said.

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]