St. Patrick's Day in New York, subdued once again

St. Patrick's Day in New York City usually means large crowds, parade floats, and heading to your favorite Irish pub. But the holiday was mostly virtual again one year after the annual parade celebrating Irish heritage was canceled because of the pandemic. 

Although the city's usual huge parade with floats and marching bands was canceled, Mayor Bill de Blasio took part in a small ceremonial march with parade leaders and several dozen National Guard troops early Wednesday morning to keep the tradition alive.

St. Patrick's Cathedral livestreamed its St. Patrick's Day Mass, led by Cardinal Timothy Dolan. The cathedral was limited to 24% capacity.

Then the group that organizes the annual parade broadcast a virtual parade featuring clips of marching groups from past years and then some live performances.

The Port Authority Police Department Pipes and Drums Band also performed and honored frontline workers. 

The holiday usually means big business for New York's bars and pubs, especially those with an Irish theme and Irish American history. This year, the venues that have survived the pandemic's economic fallout felt empty given the 35% capacity limit.

"On a regular year, around this time we would have been packed — you wouldn't be able to walk through the bar," said Ardell Reilly, the manager at Connolly's Pub and Restaurant in Midtown. "All the bars in the area would be full." 

This year, Connolly's looked to bring some level of normalcy back. The staff decorated the bar in all green and served a few patrons.  

Among the people taking part in the festivities were two nurses who have been on the front lines since the start of the pandemic.

"We have been here for St. Patrick's Day for the last 25 years," said Karen Nieminski of Fort Plain, a village in central New York. 

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"Usually St. Patrick's Day is very festive. Lots of people around. It is kind of quiet this year, subdued," Chris Brophy of Montrose, a hamlet in Westchester County. "But we'll make the best of it." 

Later Wednesday morning, the mayor spoke about the holiday and the parade during his pandemic briefing.

"It's an amazing tradition. And it's a tradition that has been in so many ways stressed and challenged by the pandemic, and yet it has survived very, very modestly last year," de Blasio said. "People could feel that sense keeping the tradition alive, keeping the history alive, but on the way to something much, much better, which is next year, where I think literally millions will be on Fifth Avenue to salute the marchers and to celebrate the day as we all come back together."

With The Associated Press