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Detroit's St. Patrick's Parade Sunday is canceled; Corktown bars to party on

Sunday's parade is canceled, but Corktown bars plan to party on Sunday and Tuesday for St. Patrick's Day

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

The 62nd annual Detroit St. Patrick's Parade scheduled for Sunday in Corktown has been canceled. 

Parade co-chair Mike Kelly posted a statement on social media Wednesday evening confirming the decision. 

Bands, floats and plenty of green dressed participants make their way down Michigan Avenue for the annual Detroit St. Patricks Parade.

"The health and safety of our participants, spectators, local businesses and sponsors is our top priority, especially after we learned about the first cases of COVID-19 in Michigan today," Kelly said in the statement, adding that the parade leadership met with teams for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Mayor Mike Duggan and agreed it was the best decision to cancel the outdoor event. 

"We appreciate your dedication whether you’re a brand-new participant, or one of our longtime friends, supporters, Corktown businesses, sponsors or a City of Detroit leader who helps make our parade possible every year," said Kelly, who is also the president of the United Irish Societies Board of Directors of Detroit. "The Detroit St. Patrick’s Parade team looks forward to staging another historic parade in March 2021 and our goal is to make it bigger, better and more successful than ever!"

The cancellation of the annual green party is surely a bummer for revelers, but it's also a financial hit for the bars along the parade route in Corktown, which travels down Michigan Avenue from 6th to 14th streets. Parade Day for a bar in Corktown can be as big as St. Patrick's Day itself, sometimes busier. 

None of the Corktown bars reached Wednesday evening had planned to quash the parties Sunday in the wake of the parade cancellation. 

PJ Ryder of PJ's Lager House said the bar will be open on Sunday and St. Patrick's Day on Tuesday. 

"We don't intend on closing the bar," he said Wednesday shortly after hearing about the cancellation. "I literally found out 15 minutes ago and I'm still trying to figure it out. I have no idea if anyone is going to come down."

He said one of the bands booked to play Sunday still wants to entertain anyone who does attend, but Ryder said it'll have to be for a lower fee because of the unknown. 

"Parade Day is always a shot in the dark," he said. "It can be 23 (degrees) and sleet-y, or 60 and beautiful, but this ... even if you asked me three days ago, we were beginning to wonder about it. All of a sudden it kind of came into focus." 

Revelers enjoy St. Patrick's Day celebration at McShane's Irish Pub in Corktown on Saturday March 17, 2018.

In St. Clair Shores, Pat O'Brien's Irish pub takes bus loads of party people clad in green to Corktown for parade day, and they said this year is no different. 

"We know that an Irish party cannot be stopped," the bar posted to social media Wednesday afternoon. "We are still taking our buses down and planning our day according to the schedule. Bars are open and their entertainment is still in place."

McShane's Pub and Whiskey Bar manager Kyle Catarino confirmed that several bars all over Metro Detroit still planed on bringing bus loads of St. Patrick's party people to the Corktown restaurant Sunday. 

"I just had pretty much all of them call me, they're all still coming," he said, adding that he expects busloads of people not only from St. Clair Shores, but Utica, Trenton and Allen Park. 

"It's still going to be busy, you're not going to have as many of the families out and the older people," he said. "It's still going to be busy."

He said meetings are happening tonight to form a "progressive pub crawl" through Corktown that Saturday through Tuesday to keep the bars packed in the historic neighborhood. 

"The Nemo's buses and the McShane's buses are going to be shuttling people around to the local restaurants and bars ... we're just trying to figure it out any way we can."   

Twitter: @melodybaetens