‘Discourage the spread’ | Rockford takes ‘COVID friendly’ precautions for annual parade


ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — We are approaching the one-year mark since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, which canceled traditional St. Patrick’s Day festivities.

This year, health experts are hoping residents don’t let their guard down for this St. Patrick’s Day. The St. Patrick’s Day parade usually sees thousands come from all over to visit downtown Rockford.

With the parade festivities forced to pivot again this year, one local organizer says we can still expect this unorthodox celebration to be special.

As a result of the pandemic, the festivities won’t include the traditional marching parade or Saint Patty’s Fest.

Local residents are encouraged to register their decorated vehicles to participate in a ride-along celebration through Downtown Rockford. Irish Marching Society President Danny McDade says he’s hopeful to still have plenty of local residents visit the city.

“The Jeep club already has about 80 Jeeps committed. I know for sure the wolfpack, that’s the kilt-riding motorcycle guys they’re going to do that. I think the Model-A club is going to join us too. So, this could be a sizeable event,’ McDade said.

With the festivities limited, business owners Jarrod Hennis and Shelby Starr are trying to find other ways to make up for lost revenue.

“Saint Patrick’s would’ve been a big day for us. Normally we see the months of like January, February, things are kind of slower following the holidays,’ said Starr, the owner of Bath and Body Fusion.

“Yeah, Saint Patrick’s Day is always a big selling day for us. We normally have our free print day that lands on the day of the parade and all of the festivities. I think now it’s just, you know, still pivoting and figuring out the next thing to get people in,” added Hennis, the owner of the Rockford Art Deli.

For those worried about the parade festivities in years to come, McDade says this isn’t going to be a typical celebration.

“It’s two years now we’ve been stumped. But think [we’re] about halfway to Saint Patty’s Day/Labor Day Event,” McDade added.

While the CDC is advising against attending large gatherings once again, an OSF Chief Medical Officer says that Americans are feeling pandemic fatigue and plan to celebrate the day somehow.

“Just because you’re feeling fatigued does not change how the virus behaves. The virus is going to do what it does whether you are fatigued from the pandemic or not. So continue to gather in small groups to discourage the spread, continue to wash your hands, keep your distance, and wear your masks,” advised Dr. Bill Walsh.

Dr. Walsh says if all those practices remain in place, the end of the pandemic could arrive sooner.

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