Celebrations change for students turning 21

Celebrations change for students turning 21

Hannah Hippensteel, Features Reporter

Turning 21-years-old in college has come to represent a rite of passage for many students.

Winona State University has a dry campus, but the city itself has several downtown bars that offer traditions for students on their 21st birthdays.

Establishments like Lucky’s on Third offer a “Helen Keller shot” where celebrators blindly throw three ice cubes and are served a drink combining all the choices.

Other bars like Tavern 129 (the Tav) give the birthday person a commemorative cup or shot glass.

]With the end date of the COVID-19 stay-at-home restrictions still not concrete, students are shifting their expectations for birthday celebrations.

]Students who have already turned 21 had different perspectives on how they saw quarantine’s impact on celebration.

Hayden Zaborowski turned 21 on Oct. 31 and had what he described as a “proper” birthday bash in Winona.

Zaborowski said he sees going out as a 21st birthday rite of passage and explained why.

“The best feeling is when the clock strikes midnight and the nervous feeling evaporates. You can just have fun with a giant weight now off your shoulders,” Zaborowski said.

He also offered insight for those who will be confined at home on how to customize their celebratory day.

“Some people just don’t like the bar atmosphere. To those people, throw a kick-back with people you enjoy being around. Don’t sacrifice your happiness,” Zaborowski said.

For Justin Kostecki, the quarantine has impacted larger events in coordination with his birthday.

“I turn 21 on June 10 and my brother wanted to have his wedding around the same time so I could celebrate with a drink,” Kostecki said.

Self-proclaimed as not “being big on birthdays,” the shift in plans hasn’t been major for Kostecki.

“I’ll still be 21, still going to be able to buy alcohol, so I don’t mind either way,” he said.

At the other end of the spectrum is Allie Westphal.

Westphal, who celebrated her 21st birthday on April 19, expressed her frustration on maximum capacity rules for gatherings, saying they thwarted her attempts to have a good time.

“I live with five other people and we can’t have more than ten people in a place at once. I really don’t want to only celebrate my birthday with only three of four of my friends in order to be safe,” Westphal said.

Westphal mentioned how she sees going to bars or making a liquor store purchase as a rite of passage, but she does not identify as a big drinker.

Instead, she said she spent the time leading up to her birthday making a do-it-yourself (DIY) drinking game.

Students have said being at home has allowed them to return to more traditional ways of celebrating with family, from the party planning to deciding what is served for dessert.

They also reported using Zoom, the conference call software, to have virtual parties.

Although physical parties are up in the air for the time being, most students continue to find ways to celebrate and feel loved on their milestone birthday.


The opinions expressed in this paper are not necessarily those of Winona State University, the Minnesota State Colleges and University system, or the Winona State University student body.