The pandemic in the United States, now more than a year old, hits a number of calendar milestones for the second time, including St. Patrick’s Day parades across the country. The sudden cancellation of the parades last year was one of the first big signs of how disruptive the pandemic was going to be to normal life in the United States
Although many states and cities have been tentatively easing various Covid restrictions recently, most places have not cleared the way for a resumption of the parades, which can be among the most ruthlessly effective types of super-spreading events.
The St. Patrick’s Day parade in Chicago was canceled again; the parade in Boston was again canceled; the one in Philadelphia, canceled again. The New York City parade, which aims to maintain its distinction as the world’s oldest uninterrupted St. Patrick’s Day parade, will once again be largely ceremonial and very low-key, with a small group walking down Fifth Avenue at an unannounced time early on Tomorrow – that is, when the city and the state allow anything to be done at all.
Some places give the commemorations a twist. The 37th annual parade in St. James, Long Island is now being held by car. the one in Hilton Head, SC, moves to the water; and the one in Pittsburgh (maybe) moving into the fall. A drive-in Celtic Rock concert is scheduled in Dublin, California .; a 3-mile virtual run in Naperville, Illinois; and a day of green beer in plastic cups delivered from masked servers between plexiglass shades at McGillin’s Olde Ale House in Philadelphia.
Last year, bars from Chicago to New Orleans were full on the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day despite local parades being canceled, resulting in stern admonitions from mayors and governors. This year officials are asking people to stay home, or at least be vigilant when they are out.
“We have not come to a point where we can start big St. Patrick’s Day celebrations,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner for the Chicago Department of Public Health, recently briefed reporters.
Still, not everyone is resigned to lying low for another year.
In the city of Erin, Wisconsin, with a population of around 3,800, last year’s parade, the 40th, was canceled at short notice: floats had already been prepared and previous parade kings and queens were planned. This year local officials and volunteers are determined to do everything possible to make a parade happen.
“We made a decision in late January,” said Dennis Kenealy, a retired attorney who is the city council’s chairman. “If we couldn’t get all of the health precautions together, we’d be repealing them anyway. But let’s try. “
Mr. Kenealy gave reasons why the organizers felt comfortable going forward: The parade will take place outdoors along a stretch of motorway; Spectators can line up to watch from their cars; A Wednesday morning parade is likely to attract fewer people than in previous years. and Wisconsin is currently doing better than most of the country in both the percentage of people fully vaccinated and the rate of newly reported cases. A nationwide mask mandate remains in force.
Even so, Mr Kenealy said he hoped that one of the few St. Patrick’s Day parades this year wouldn’t make Erin a magnet for large crowds out of town.
“I would hope too many don’t show up for that reason,” said Kenealy. “I mean, we’re pretty far out here. And we don’t offer much, nothing that you couldn’t see elsewhere. “