‘Hard thing to do:’ Organizers cancel St. Patrick’s parade in Greenwich due to COVID-19

Photo of Ken Borsuk

GREENWICH — For the second year in a row, organizers have canceled the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade due to health concerns about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The parade, which traditionally steps off from Town Hall and heads down Greenwich Avenue, had been scheduled for March 31 with former Selectman John Toner as grand marshal.

But with large crowds expected at the parade, which is one of Greenwich’s most popular events, organizers said this was the safest decision.

“We had proceeded as if it would go on, but we just felt that with the infection rates still so high that it would be irresponsible to have a celebratory event like that at this time,” James Dougherty, from the Greenwich Hibernian Association, said Tuesday.

The necessary restrictions, with masks, social distancing and a limit on attendance, plus the uncertainty over COVID-19 cases in the next two months, made it impossible to go forward, Dougherty said. The parade is is organized by the Greenwich Hibernian Association and receives a permit from the town.

“We felt it just couldn’t be done at this time,” he said. Local civic organizations, schools and pipe bands had been interested in taking part in the parade, but it was just not feasible this year with so many unknowns, he said.

“We didn’t know if we would have been able to get permission (from the town) to do it anyway, and we just didn’t feel it was the right thing to do at this time,” Dougherty said of the decision to cancel. “It’s a hard thing to do, but we have to worry about people’s health and safety first of all.”

The plan is to go ahead with raising the Irish flag at Town Hall on March 17 to mark St. Patrick’s Day, he said.

The parade was canceled last year as well as the pandemic hit in mid-March 2020 — one of the first major events called off in Greenwich due to COVID-19. St. Patrick’s Day Parades were also canceled in New York, Boston and other cities, but Stamford was able to hold its parade in 2020 because it was held on an earlier date.

Toner was scheduled to be the grand marshal last year as well. Dougherty said they intend to honor in the 2022 parade.

Move vaccinations for COVID-19 are expected as the state enters into Phase 1B. The town and Greenwich Hospital are scheduling appointments for vaccination for people age 75 and over. The program will expand in the weeks ahead to add essential workers, seniors over the age of 65 and younger people who are more vulnerable to the virus due to comorbidities.

As for the fate of other big events in town, the Greenwich Town Party did not happen in 2020, but the current plan is to go forward this year. No acts have been announced for the annual all-day music festival in Roger Sherman Baldwin Park, but organizers have said they are hopeful it can go on.

Organizers of the Greenwich Wine and Food Festival, which was canceled last fall, said last year that they intended to hold two events in 2021 in Roger Sherman Baldwin Park, one in late April and one in the fall. On Tuesday, event organizers said there were no updates at this time.

The Greenwich International Film Festival has already announced that it will hold a “virtual social impact film showcase” in late February. The event moved to digital screenings last spring as well due to the pandemic.

There is some hope of holding a “half-way to St. Patrick’s Day” parade of some form in September, Dougherty said.

“We at least want to have something at that point to get people interested again and get people out because we hopefully have something to celebrate at that point,” he said.