St. Patrick’s Day to be largely virtual in NYC for 2nd year

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FILE – This file photo from Saturday March 16, 2019, shows Sharon Keely, left, of Dublin, viewing the St. Patrick’s Day Parade along Fifth Avenue in New York. A largely virtual St. Patrick’s Day is planned for New York City on Wednesday, March 17, 2021, one year after the annual parade celebrating Irish heritage became one of the city’s first coronavirus casualties. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — A largely virtual St. Patrick’s Day was planned for New York City on Wednesday, 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 joined parade leaders and several dozen National Guard troops in marching up Madison Avenue early Wednesday morning to keep the tradition alive.

A live broadcast of the St. Patrick’s Day Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral took place. A virtual parade featuring clips of marching groups from past years was to follow at 10 a.m., according to the parade organizers’ website, and an hourlong show streaming on Facebook at 11 a.m. included performances by singers Andy Cooney and Moya Brennan.

Multitudes of people usually line Fifth Avenue for New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, which traces its roots to the 1760s.

The city was just starting to shut down to halt the spread of the coronavirus on St. Patrick’s Day 2020, and de Blasio waited until days before the parade to cancel it. A small group marched in the rain before 7 a.m.

St. Patrick’s Day is also usually big business for the city’s taverns and restaurants, and a major date on the calendar for tourism.

This year, thanks to COVID-19 restrictions, celebrations will be muted. Establishments that serve alcohol can only do so if they also serve food. Closing time is 11 p.m. Taverns and pubs, like all restaurants, can only fill 35% of their seats. That will rise to 50% two days after the holiday.

People staying home can take in a 5 p.m. program on the Catholic Faith Network featuring parade leaders and Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, and TV station WNBC will broadcast “St. Patrick’s Day: A Celebration For All” at 7 p.m.

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