The annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Savannah, Georgia has been canceled for the second year in a row as city officials have moved to not issue any special event permits through March 2021.
In a press briefing on Tuesday, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, wearing a mask, said: “I had hoped, prayed, that our situation might improve. But I think that what we witnessed this holiday season, will put the health of our city and our citizens at risk.
“Therefore, I am recommending that we continue our moratorium on event permits issued by the city through the end of March 2021.
“This will, unfortunately, mean two straight years without our world-famous St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
“Frankly speaking, without a state-wide mask mandate, and with conflicting rules from our state that don’t require universal, science-driven precautions to be mandated by private businesses, we cannot do St. Patrick’s Day safely in its present form.
“I again call on our Governor to mandate masks throughout the state, and I again call on our Governor to make sure, ensure, to demand that businesses operate in a manner that is consistent with the science from his very own public health department.
“Mandate masks, mandate hand washing, mandate safe distance.
“I appreciate the patience and understanding of the parade committee as we continue to work together to keep people safe, and I have committed to the parade committee and our partners that we will work with them to find safe ways to honor the sanctity of the St. Patrick’s Day observance, even if we’re not able to do the festival.”
Later, Mayor Johnson said the decision to extend the moratorium is two-fold - behavioral and scientific - and that officials waited to see how the holiday season played out in the city.
"We had a Christmas holiday, a New Year's holiday, where people were coming into our city and - partly because of the state, the government's inability, unwillingness to mandate masks and to mandate that businesses follow scientifically-approved practices - I mean, it was madness on the Savannah streets."
"The fact was, we really had no ability to control any of it," Mayor Johnson said, adding, "If we cannot manage this during a holiday weekend, how could we possibly manage St. Patrick's Day?"
He added: "We cannot risk all of the people who will come here to live their best lives and have the best time they can have with no mask and all those things, bringing their coronavirus here."
Responding to the news, John Fogarty, General Chairman of the Savannah St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, said in a statement: “We understand that the City of Savannah is not issuing any special event permits through March 2021. As a result, we will not have the 2021 Savannah St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
"While this is disappointing, we are confident in the City’s decision. Our top priority has always been to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of parade participants and attendees.
“After the 2020 parade cancellation, we were hopeful for 2021 and we had applied for the special event permit. Over the past several months we have continued to work with the City of Savannah during the permitting process and now we need to be united in doing what is best for our community.
“Since the first Savannah St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1824, there have been extraordinary times when we had to cancel the parade, and this is, unfortunately, one of those times.
“Going forward, we commit to keep you aware of our future plans and we appreciate the community’s understanding and support.”
STATEMENT from Savannah St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee 1/5/21 We understand that the City of Savannah is not...Posted by Savannah St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee on Tuesday, January 5, 2021
On March 11 of last year, organizers made the decision to cancel the 2020 St. Patrick’s Day parade “in light of recent public health concerns.”
The Savannah St. Patrick's Day Parade dates back to 1824. According to organizers, approximately 280 units - bands, families, societies, soldiers, public servants, and commercial floats - take part in the parade that winds through the streets of Historic Downtown Savannah every March 17, making it one of the largest and most recognized St. Patrick's Day parades in the world.
You can watch back on the 2019 Savannah St. Patrick's Day parade here: