‘We didn’t want to put people at risk’: St. Patrick’s Day parade organizers reflect on impact of pandemic

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ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) – Next Friday, the second anniversary of the pandemic will be upon us. At least when these effects were first observed in Monroe County. For much of the Rochester area, the pandemic became real when the St. Patrick’s Day Parade was canceled just days before it was due to take place. However, this year that is not the case. The region is in a decent situation with the pandemic, and tanks are expected to hit the streets this weekend.

Rewind to March 2020, St. Patrick’s Day Parade organizers were gearing up for the festivities as usual and two days before it all kicked off, Rochester was introduced to COVID.

St. Patrick’s Day Parade committee member Mark Dowdell said he was shocked when he learned the parade would be cancelled.

“We knew we were kind of on the threshold of maybe it could have been or maybe it couldn’t. But when they finally made that call, it really let the air out of your airship. It was: ‘We are ready to go, everyone is lined up. They know exactly where they are supposed to be. And the next thing you know, poof, gone, Dowdell said.

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade was the first major event in Rochester to be closed due to COVID, putting the pandemic and the severity that would come into perspective for much of our region.

Committee Vice-Chair Kate McBride said at the time that our region was completely unfamiliar with the pandemic.

“It was disappointing, but you know when you think about all the other things that people have had to deal with during the pandemic, you put that into perspective,” McBride said.

This cancellation of the parade paved the way for many other events to be postponed. Not to mention going into full lockdown.

“We didn’t want to put people in danger, at risk for whatever might happen. It was so new to everyone that we kind of joined in and said, “Okay, it’s good for the cause, we’ll follow the cause.” said Dowdell.

A year later, a virtual parade was organized in March 2021, still cautious in the face of pandemic measures. Fast forward to this year, the parade is back and expected to be better than ever.

“Bigger and better than ever!” I think the excitement that everyone feels like everyone wants to get back in there,” McBride said, “It’s going to be fantastic. Please come down and join us.

The parade will start at the East and Alexandre corner on Saturday March 12 at 12:30 p.m. while waiting for good weather.

“We are keeping our fingers crossed that the wind blows precipitation and/or cold weather whatever happens in a different direction for a few hours. We’ll go down the street, we’ll go down, they’ll never know the difference,” Dowdell said.

The weekend festivities don’t stop at the parade. Friday night, the Amerks are hosting an Irish night. On Saturday morning, the Running of the Green will take place before the parade starts at the War Memorial. Finally, after the parade, there will be a music concert at Water Street.

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