The Lehigh-Lafayette Rivalry means something different for everyone in the Lehigh and Bethlehem community. Some students are unbothered and have never gone to a game, some businesses see an uptick in customers and some spend the time reconnecting with alumni and exemplifying school spirit.
Vince Klein, a resident of Hillside Avenue, has lived in the Lehigh Valley his entire life. He said he doesn’t mind the rowdiness of Le-Laf week.
“I like it,” Klein said. “It doesn’t bother me.”
During Le-Laf weekend, the Lehigh University Police Department sees an increase in calls due to the volume of people in the area for the game and related events, LUPD Assistant Chief Chris Houtz wrote in an email.
In preparation for the festivities, LUPD increases security for some events and works alongside the university, Lafayette College, the Bethlehem Police Department and the media to ensure general safety, Houtz wrote. For community members not affiliated with Lehigh, Houtz said LUPD will work to ensure they are “minimally affected by the activities related to this tradition.”
“LUPD supports the tradition of the Lehigh-Laf game and works with our community to provide a safe environment for everyone celebrating the game,” Houtz wrote.
Bethlehem Police Capt. Nicholas Lechman said LUPD usually reaches out to BPD for assistance with traffic on game day.
BPD usually patrols off campus along Fifth Street and Sixth Street, Lechman said.
Nothing in past Le-Laf weeks has led to any concerns, Lechman said, but there are usually loud parties and excessive drinking that BPD monitors.
Jenna Papaz, director of the Health Advancement and Prevention Strategies Office at Lehigh, said in recent years, students have started to call for medical amnesty during Le-Laf week more than ever.
Papaz said the office takes on a harm reduction approach, with one of its missions being to identify high-risk drinking weekends and implement protective behavioral strategies.
On Nov. 17, Lehigh After Dark, an initiative managed by the prevention strategies office, will be hosting a Le-Laf fest from 8 to 11 p.m. on the STEPS Lawn. The event will have games, a musical performance and a food truck to get students excited for Le-Laf.
“It’s not that we’re trying to compete, but we just want to make sure that there’s a safe option for students out there,” Papaz said.
Papaz said events like the Le-Laf fest will provide alternatives for students who have no interest in drinking.
James Shea and his wife Beverly Shea have been residents of the Lehigh Valley for over 50 years. They said they have never celebrated Le-Laf, but are supporters of Lehigh as long as its teams aren’t playing against Navy, as James Shea served in the Navy.
“I pull for Lehigh because I’ve been using their facilities for 50 years, running around their fields and track every Sunday,” James Shea said. “I feel like I owe them something. ”
Chaz Patrick, owner of Molly’s Irish Grille and Sports Pub, said Molly’s decorates its own banner for Le-Laf, and he enjoys taking pictures of others’ banners and posting them on social media.
Patrick said business is great throughout the week and all that matters is Lehigh beating Lafayette.
Jeff Vaclavik, owner of Deja Brew, said although it is busier in town during Le-Laf, it’s a normal week for them business-wise.
Sam Masotto, owner of Bonn Place Brewing Co. on the corner of Taylor and Mechanic Streets, said he’s always loved the sentiment of Le-Laf.
“I think it’s some of the most clever, well-articulated spirit,” Masotto said.
Masotto recently hung a banner outside Bonn Place that reads “Laf thinks Bonn is a city in Germany,” a phrase put together by students, after previously hanging their banners inside. Masotto said he is waiting to see whether the banner will draw in new customers.
This week, Bonn is offering a beer called “Laf thinks” and is having people write in submissions for other banner phrase ideas.
Angelo Caiazzo, owner of Campus Pizza, said they don’t do anything different as a business during Le-Laf, but it is one of their busiest weekends because a lot of alumni return.
“(Le-Laf) has been a big thing for the last 40 years,” Caiazzo said. “We’ve been here for 45 years, so we did a lot of them.”
Tony Silvoy, owner of The Goose, said he also sees a lot of alumni return to the campus around Le-Laf.
“It’s a nice time,” Silvoy said. “You get to see a few more friends that come back.”