GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — An orchestra playing Irish music in downtown Grand Rapids helped bring St. Patrick’s Day alive a year after COVID-19 silenced some of America’s most storied traditions.
“Last year, we were home just Zooming each other, celebrating that way, but this year, we’re back together with our smiling Irish eyes and having a great time,” Pamela Szczepansk said.
Szczepansk rang in St. Patrick’s Day at O’Toole’s on Grand Rapids’ West Side, where customers could eat inside or outside following COVID-19 mitigation protocols. As she raised a glass to more laughs with her friends, she also celebrated the reason she got vaccinated Monday.
“I want to see my children again that live in New York City,” Szczepansk said.
Others marked the holiday by supporting local bars that are working to recover from months of shutdowns over the last year and regain a sense of normalcy.
“St. Patty’s Day has to be celebrated and at a time like this, you got to support local businesses,” customer Tim Nicholas said.
At Broadway Bar and Grill, alcohol was served outside and St. Patrick’s Day food was to-go.
“If you serve your food to go, then they’re not sitting in there in close quarters and stuff, so that’s a big difference,” said Cindy Berrington, the owner of Broadway Bar.
HopCat workers, on the other hand, said they were expecting a large crowd and possibly a line outside the Arena District favorite.
“We’re letting people know at the door when they come in that they only have 90 minutes, only because we want everyone to experience St. Paddy’s Day,” Craig Hauser, general manager of HopCat, said.
As customers came out to safely celebrate the day, they said they wanted the drinks to keep flowing, their friends to keep laughing and the music to keep playing.
“It feels really nice to celebrate with friends,” Szczepanski said.