During St. Patrick’s Day this year, Chicago will not see the traditional back-to-back parades. Although the words “downtown and South Side Irish parades canceled” may disappoint the public, authorities are enforcing these measures to prevent the community spread of COVID-19.
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Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, City Hall will “not be issuing any permits for parades or large gatherings in the first quarter.” As a proud Irishman, it pained Downtown Alderman Brian Hopkins (2nd Ward) to say the downtown parade and the South Side Irish Parade down Western Avenue, scheduled for March 13 and March 14 respectively, have been canceled. He added that there’s no other way to avoid “the type of activity that the parade inspires—not just the crowd watching the parade itself, but throughout the day.”
Hopkins also spoke about the situation at bars during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. About this, he said, “Bars routinely violate their fire codes. … People are packed shoulder-to-shoulder for an hour waiting to get in. It’s just a recipe for spreading the virus. We can’t sanction it. … If we wait for the [coronavirus] variants to establish a foothold and start spreading, and then we cancel the parade, it’s too late.”
In 2020, City Hall insisted for several days that the parades take place, although Gov. J.B. Pritzker and others pressured the body to cancel both events. Mayor Lori Lightfoot finally canceled the parades a week from St. Patrick’s Day, but bars and restaurants were crowded anyway. Regarding this, Hopkins said, “Anyone could have potentially been forgiven for making the wrong decision on St. Patrick’s Day 2020. If you’re a government leader and you make the wrong decision now in 2021, it is unforgivable. There is no excuse. The science is clear. St. Patrick’s Day should be canceled.”
While the traditions of dyeing the Chicago River and the subsequent parade downtown date back to 1962, the first South Side Irish Parade took place in 1979. The latter’s route is along Western Avenue, from 103rd Street to 115th Street.