MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Hundreds of people crowded the sidewalk along Beale Street to celebrate the 47th Annual Silky O’Sullivan St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Saturday.
Organizers said the event was held in May to help celebrate the city’s resilient spirit and to honor the tradition of promoting all things Memphis during the month of May.
Owner of Silky’s Joellyn Sullivan says they usually host the parade on St. Patrick’s Day but had to postpone due to the Shelby County health directive at the time.
“When St. Patrick’s Day happened March 17, we really and truly were not far enough along in the Shelby County Health Department’s directive to be able to have a parade at that time. We knew that and so we didn’t even try,” Sullivan said.
According to the Beale Street Merchants Association, this parade was approved by the Shelby County Health Department and the City of Memphis Permits Office.
Sullivan says she was later granted approval to have the parade as restrictions loosened.
“When we knew that music fest was not going to happen the first week of May, we thought ‘Well, that’s two more months almost, and so, maybe by then, things will be far enough along’. Sure enough, the health department said we were far enough along to have a parade,” Sullivan said.
The association says this parade was its way of welcoming visitors back to Beale, and it did just that.
Now despite being asked to social distance and wear masks, there was pretty much no social distancing, and the majority of the crowd chose not to wear a mask.
However, we spoke to several people who chose to mask up and those who chose not to. People said it was no judgment on either side, they’re just glad to get a chance to enjoy the parade.
“People back in the bars and in the restaurants, the bands and all the people, it’s time for a little more energy. Just keep wearing the mask, get the shot, and let’s open this all back up,” Avid L. Acey, the Grand Marshal Emeritus, said.
Several people we spoke to said they felt right at home.
“I’m didn’t know there was a parade or anything. I am going back to Kentucky and telling them that Memphis through me a parade for my happy birthday,” said Barbie Woodruff, who is visiting from out of town.
And she wasn’t the only shocked to see a parade during a pandemic. Many people told us they were surprised by the large outcome but go on to say they enjoyed seeing it.
“”I am and I’m very proud that you guys are because this brings the community together and we need that in this time,” Sarah Cooper, who is visiting from out of town, said.
The Merchant’s Association says it encouraged visitors to social distance and wear masks.
But as you can see people gathered very closely on the sidewalk. Some wearing masks and others not.
“If they feel uncomfortable, they have their mask on which is respectable, but everyone else feels comfortable. They’re just walking around carefree and I completely don’t blame them,” Tj Mathew, a visitor, said.
Lakeisha Smith added, “No, I don’t think this will help the cause but I’ve gotten both of my vaccines and I think that’s what you need to do.”
David L. Acey who was not only the Grand Marshal Emeritus but is also the executive director of Africa in April says while he doesn’t think we’re ready to fully open back up, he believes this is a good start.
“It’s time for a little bit more energy. Just keep wearing the mask, get the shot and let’s open this all back up,” Acey said.
Acey who’s over Africa in April confirms to WREG-TV that the festival will be rescheduled to this August, and he says more details will be released on that in the coming weeks.