If a shamrock-bedecked Chicago politician hollers “Erin Go Bragh” and there are no St. Patrick’s Day revelers on hand to hear it, does the pandering win any votes?
That’s the existential question facing the city again this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic once more shuts down the big traditional parades that spotlight the local celebration of all things Irish.
South Side Irish Parade organizers announced the march down South Western Avenue is off. And downtown Ald. Brian Hopkins, 2nd, said city officials have said the downtown St. Patrick’s Day parade won’t be held either.
The news Tuesday didn’t come as much of a shock.
The city is just dipping its toe back into indoor dining after shutting restaurants for months.
And Chicago Public Schools is locked into tense brinkmanship with the Chicago Teachers Union over when teachers will return to schools, so inviting hundreds of thousands of people to pack in shoulder to shoulder to watch the floats and dancers didn’t seem likely.
With the emergence of a more-contagious COVID-19 variant, Hopkins said that makes sense. “By the time we realize it’s spreading here, that would be too late,” Hopkins said. “We need to be proactive to stop it, and that means no parade, no dyeing of the river, no people packing into bars. I hate to say it, but it’s the only sensible course of action at this point.”
A news release Tuesday morning from South Side parade organizers said the city will not be issuing any permits for “parades or large gatherings” in the first quarter of this year. That would mean no smaller Northwest Side St. Patrick’s Day parade either.
Officials from the city Department of Special Events did not immediately confirm the no-permits policy.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot also canceled the parades last year during the early onset of the pandemic, though people turned up to Irish bars on Western Avenue and parts of the North Side anyway.
A South Side Irish Parade spokeswoman at that time said organizers were looking forward to 2021, “when the largest community celebration of St. Patrick’s Day outside of Dublin (Ireland) will step off once again.”
Losing it again is a big hit to businesses in and around Beverly that look forward to the big crowds driving in and coming off the Metra.
But the neighborhood is more prepared for the cancellation this time, said Mary Jo Viero, the executive director of the Beverly Area Planning Association. The organization will come up with something else for March 14, the day the parade was scheduled, she said.
“We will have contests for people to decorate their houses. That will get the community involved,” Viero said. “Here at BAPA, we will work with our businesses to come up with something really cool, but we don’t have it nailed down yet. We have reached out to the businesses to ask if they want to be a part of something for the parade date.”
Last year, the city canceled the parades just days before they were set to step off, as coronavirus fears increased, she recalled.
“They closed the schools the Friday before,” Viero said. “There was no parade and people were told to stay home. Maybe some people had some friends over and used up all the corned beef they bought. But that was about it. Everybody was hunkered down by the parade date.”
Original article: chicagotribune.com