Savannah follows lead of Boston, Chicago, Ireland, cancel St. Patrick’s Day parade

Members of the Dublin Fire Brigade Pipe Band perform while marching past The Cathedral of St. John The Baptist during a previous St. Patrick's Day parade in Savannah. (AP photo by Stephen B. Morton)

SAVANNAH, Ga. – Boston canceled its 2020 St. Patrick’s Day Parade “out of an abundance of caution” due to concerns over coronavirus, the city’s mayor announced Monday. Chicago, New York City and other major cities followed suit. A number of St. Patrick’s Day parades in Ireland have also been canceled.

On Wednesday night, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, Savannah Waterfront, Tourism Leadership Council, Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce and Visit Savannah announced the largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the Southeastern U.S. would be postponed, with no word if or when it would be rescheduled.

Michael Roush Sr., grand marshal of the city’s 196th parade, told WSAV he respects the decision but doesn’t agree with it.

“I know they mentioned that the St. Patrick’s Day parade is postponed but there’s no such thing,” he said. “It’s either on St. Patrick’s Day, or it’s not at all.”

“Admittedly, these have been some of the hardest days of my life as I rustled with the decisions I’ve been vested to make; a decision that will make people upset no matter what,” Johnson said at a news conference. “Fortunately, I did not have to make a decision; we made a decision in collaboration with our partners.”

On Tuesday, Johnson said its parade would be held unless there is guidance form state or federal health officals that it would put people at risk. On Wednesday, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House coronavirus task force Anthony Fauci testified to the U.S. House Oversight Committee: “We would recommend that there not be large crowds,"

And while the parade and festival are off, as the mayor said, Savannah is still open for business.

Despite 24 cases of COVID-19 identified in the state, Johnson said that while the parade and festival are off, Savannah remains open for business.

“People are here, people will be visiting this weekend and businesses have upped their game, impressively so, to provide the safest experience possible,” Johnson said.

St. Augustine’s Celtic Music and Heritage Festival was set for this weekend was also called off when the city pulled the permits for it, the Lions Seafood Festival and the Rhythm and Ribs Festival.

“Romanza, the nonprofit producer of the Parade and Celtic Festival, deeply regret disappointing fans and followers,” the group said in a statement. “For those of you who purchased advance tickets, it is asked that you consider your payment to be a donation, which is tax-deductible since Romanza is a nonprofit 501(c)(3).”

All events at the St. Augustine Amphitheater and Ponte Vedra Concert Hall through April 1 have also been canceled.

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