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Savannah moves ahead with St. Patrick’s Day festivity plans

February 26, 2022 GMT

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Officials in Savannah are moving ahead with plans to bring back the city’s beloved St. Patrick’s Day parade, a 198-year-old tradition in Georgia’s oldest city that’s also one of its most profitable events.

Savannah’s city council has approved some changes to the 2022 celebration aimed at curbing public drunkenness and boosting business at local bars and restaurant. But the sprawling parade is scheduled to return March 17, after being cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and 2021.

Mayor Van Johnson said as the city council met Thursday that COVID-19 infections are expected to keep declining ahead of St. Patrick’s Day. The seven-day average of new infections in Savannah and Chatham County dipped below 50 cases per day last week for the first time since before Christmas.

Among other changes, city council members voted to withhold permits for outdoor concerts and beer vendors that in the past had been used to holding a multi-day St. Patrick’s festival on the downtown riverfront. Party buses from out of town will also be denied parking permits.

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Johnson said the overall goal is to make St. Patrick’s Day more family friendly and spread the profits among more local businesses.

Savannah has been celebrating St. Patrick’s Day since 1824, when Irish immigrants held their first procession in the city. It has since grown to become one of the South’s biggest street parties after Mardi Gras, often attracting hundreds of thousands of revelers.

Two council members voted against the St. Patrick’s Day plan. One of them, Alderwoman Alicia Miller Blakely, told the Savannah Morning News she opposed moving forward with the celebration because Savannah had no Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in January. That parade was canceled by its organizers, not city officials.