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Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day Parades Canceled Again Due To Coronavirus

Last year, the parades were canceled just as panic grew in Chicago — and internationally — over the spread of COVID-19. Their cancellations marked an unofficial start of the pandemic here.

A troop of Irish dancers walk in the South Side Irish Parade.
Kate Gardiner/Flickr
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CHICAGO — The city’s famed St. Patrick Day parades have been canceled for the second year in a row due to coronavirus.

The Downtown and South Side parades are typically held in mid-March to honor the city’s large Irish American population for St. Patrick’s Day. They attract thousands of people.

But Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) told Block Club that City Hall won’t issue permits for parades or large gatherings during the first quarter of the year due to the pandemic, meaning the parades are canceled. Organizers of the South Side Irish Parade are trying to think of other ways to celebrate, they told the Sun-Times.

Last year, the parades were canceled just as panic grew in Chicago — and internationally — over the spread of COVID-19. Their cancellations marked an unofficial start of the pandemic here, though cases had been reported since Jan. 24, 2020.

Despite the cancellations and the pleas of Gov. JB Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot, people still packed into bars during the holiday weekend.

Officials first tried to say the 2020 parades were only delayed, not canceled. But that quickly changed as COVID-19 spread throughout Illinois, leading to a months-long stay at home order that started March 21.

Though the city and state now have looser restrictions in place, events with large crowds aren’t permitted to prevent the virus from spreading.

The Downtown parade is typically held after the dyeing of the Chicago River, bringing hundreds of thousands of people to the area. The South Side Irish Parade normally draws up to 150,000 people.

The 2020 parade would have been the 65th anniversary of the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which normally brags on its website, “Parade cancelation? Never! Snow, rain or Arctic cold, the parade goes on.”

There’s also a third parade — the Northwest Side Irish Parade — traditionally held, though it attracts a smaller crowd.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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