Minnesotans celebrate a different kind of St. Patrick’s day amid COVID-19 pandemic

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St. Patrick’s Day events across Minnesota adjusted their traditions to account for COVID-19 precautions.

The annual St. Patrick’s Association parade in St. Paul became a "mask-arade" drive-through event.

Organizers said the parade sold out, hosting 150 cars along Rice Street Wednesday.

"You just get the feeling, everyone around, they’re all smiles. Even though you can’t see their faces, you can see (in) their eyes how happy they are," said Peter Kenefick, who was honored as this year’s Mr. Pat.

Some bars and pubs also saw their busiest day since the start of the pandemic as St. Patrick’s Day crowds visited establishments in the metro.

The state’s loosened restrictions went into effect Monday, allowing for bars and restaurants to open indoor and outdoor dining at 75% capacity. Overall capacity is still capped at 250 people. The dial-back also allows for parties of six to sit together at a table and bar seating to open to parties of four.

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"It’s amazing because you don’t see these people for a whole year and then, all of a sudden, it’s St Patrick’s Day," said Bud Roberts, who was the first person in line at Patrick McGovern’s Pub in St. Paul Wednesday. "It’s not exactly the same as a few years ago but it’s as much as we can make it."

The owner of Patrick McGovern’s pub told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the scene was a "night and day difference" from last year.

"After a year of really having nothing, this is a big deal," pub owner Patrick Boemer said. "There were days I sat here and thought, ‘Hmm, this wasn’t really the industry to be in.’ With that being said, I really see positive things coming forward. With the vaccines, I just see that more people coming out now and enjoying themselves."

While case counts, hospitalizations and deaths in Minnesota remain well below the winter surge, the Minnesota Department of Health still urges caution.

An MDH spokesperson provided this statement: "As long as the virus is still circulating in our communities there is a risk anytime groups of people from different households gather in settings where the virus can easily spread. The presence of the B117 variant in Minnesota makes it all the more important to maintain our vigilance in masking, distancing, washing our hands and staying home if we are ill."

MDH also shared this guidance regarding safe celebrations.

More than 1.2 million Minnesotans have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Many remain hopeful that the state is turning the corner in the pandemic and celebrations may be closer to normal by next St. Patrick’s Day.

"This is a great mid-point between what it was and what it will be," Kenefick said.