CLEVELAND — With the sun shining down on Cleveland, people packed the streets to enjoy the annual St. Patrick's Day parade.
The parade started between East 18th Street and Superior Avenue at 1:04 p.m. and continued along Superior Avenue toward Public Square.
The parade marks the end of a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.
Some revelers lined up before the sun to get a slice of tradition at Slyman's Deli. The queue snaked out of the building on St. Clair and down the block.
"It's very well worth the wait, very well worth it,” said Christian Golden, who waited for an hour to pick up several corned beef sandwiches.
Owner Freddie Slyman expects to slice and sell thousands of servings of the traditional holiday fare on St. Patrick Week.
“It’s like a 5-day festival. It’s our own personal March Madness,” he laughed. “This year, all the elements are there for a great day.”
At Flat Iron Cafe, the celebration started early, with customers arriving at 7 a.m.
"It means everything to us, it’s the biggest day of the year for us," co-owner Dave Steele said. "St. Patrick's Day is about everyone coming out having a great time, enjoying some good food, throwing back some Guinness and having fun with your friends and I feel like it’s back now."
Cleveland's first St. Patrick's Day parade took place in 1842. It was organized by Cleveland's third resident, Rev. Peter McLaughlin.
"We are one of the largest parades that's held on St. Patrick's Day in the country," said Linda Carney, Executive Director of the United Irish Societies of Greater Cleveland.
With a rise in COVID-19 cases back in January, Carney told News 5 she wasn't sure if the event would be canceled for a third time or not.
"We went along with 'let's plan it until we can't plan it anymore,'" she said. "A lot of the units were delaying their practices. We spent months and months working on this kind of thing for the last three years, and everyone is so happy to see that it's actually coming to fruition this year."
Heather Holmes, the executive vice president of downtown experiences for Downtown Community Alliance, explained there are more than 200 businesses along the parade footprint. This year, they hope the sea of green means more green for their bottom line.
“They can’t wait for today to be the reason to get folks back into Downtown and to welcome everyone again,” she said, noting large events like NBA All Star Weekend and the MAC basketball tournament helped give many downtown businesses a much-needed boost.
On East 4th Street, warm weather and loosened COVID-19 restrictions brought customers back to bars, restaurants and patios. Hundreds were walking the streets, dressed in festive attire and enjoying the return of the holiday.
“Now it’s completely different, having however many people everywhere. It’s awesome,” said Zach Dillon, who was celebrating his 21st birthday Thursday.
Jennifer Fonz, an on-premise manager for Beverage Distributors, Inc. added, “We’re expecting a very large crowd. There also is an Eagles concert tonight, so that’s going to bring a lot of people down here. It’s the first time in two years we’ve had a St. Patrick’s Day, so it’s very exciting.”
Some remarked that the crowds weren't as large as other years, prior to the pandemic. But others said the showing of support for local businesses is a promising sign things are rebounding.
"The past couple of years have been decimating the whole city, especially the downtown locations," said Fonz. "But watching it come back, having the Cavs play well, today, the Guardians’ home opener in a couple of weeks… we’re really, really going to start kicking it up.”
Some business owners expect the St. Patrick's Day celebrations to last through the weekend.