SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Savannah Mayor Van Johnson said the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade since 2019 was a huge success. The mayor said it was a risk to make changes to an almost 200-year-old tradition, but believes it paid off.
This was the mayor’s first St. Patrick’s Day Parade since taking office. He said it was the best he could’ve asked for and a win for Savannah.
“We saw smiles, we saw wonderful, positive energy from people locally and people coming from around the world,” Johnson said.
City officials estimate about 60,000 locals and visitors came out for the festivities. It took nearly 500 Savannah employees to make the festivities come to life. Johnson said the turnout was smaller than he anticipated though.
“On first look, there were less people than we expected,” he said. “But again, we didn’t really know what to expect. We didn’t know whether people were going to come or whether they weren’t going to come.”
Instead of seeing people crammed on River Street, the mayor said this year’s expanded festival zone allowed for smaller crowds to gather throughout multiple city blocks.
“We’re very grateful,” he said. “We looked down in Florida and saw what was happening in some of the spring break sites there and some of those cities and the things they’ve had to do in terms of the property damage and enacting curfew, so Savannah’s blessed.”
Johnson says there was only one arrest during the parade. According to the Savannah Police Department (SPD), that arrest was for public drunkenness made by a Georgia State Patrol trooper.
SPD says an additional 16 festival arrests were made during the rest of the weekend. Eight of the arrests were obstruction charges. Three arrests were made for public drunkenness (not including the parade arrest).
In addition to the operation zone arrests, the SPD Traffic Unit wrote 122 citations and made 17 DUI arrests.
In comparison, there were 33 arrests in 2019, 20 in 2018, and 54 in 2017. Those totals do not include arrests made by the SPD Traffic Unit.
Johnson says zero arrests were made in the expanded to-go cup zone.
Businesses in the Starland district tell News 3 they liked the extended zone and it’s something they’d like to see next year, even year-round. Johnson said it’s too early to make that call, but it could be an option.
“This was an opportunity for those businesses to win, and they did better than if we had just done things like we normally do them,” he said. “We’ll evaluate and the great thing about our city now is that A we listen, more importantly, we evaluate.”
This year, one of the city’s top priorities was keeping Savannah clean. The mayor said 300 tons of waste were removed and no littering citations were given out.
During Tuesday’s briefing, Johnson also spoke about the recycling fire that occurred over the weekend. Johnson praised the Savannah Fire Department for their work extinguishing the blaze and keeping the fire from spreading.
In regards to the city’s COVID-19 efforts, Johnson says the city is shifting focus on protecting healthcare systems from being overwhelmed.
Johnson said the city does expect to see a bump in COVID-19.
Watch the complete press briefing below.