SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The Coastal Empire and Lowcountry celebrated St. Patrick’s Day Wednesday for the second time during the coronavirus pandemic.

The South’s largest celebration is different than in years past. For the second year in a row, the pandemic canceled the annual parade.

And despite the Savannah Mayor Van Johnson’s warnings to stay away from large gatherings, crowds and visitors are still flocking to downtown Savannah.

In Ellis Square and City Market, for example, News 3 was live as hundreds of people wore green at local bars and businesses to celebrate the city’s patron saint.

In years past, revelers crowded Savannah’s streets and squares early in the morning to compete for the best spot to watch the parade. This year, downtown Savannah was not very populated.

“We were slam packed [two years ago],” said Jordan Yabut, a bartender at Barrelhouse South in downtown Savannah. “We cut off these roads right here, so what’s changed so far is that we have cars parked right here,” he said gesturing to the front of the bar.

Yabut says he is happy the scaled-down celebration is busier than last year. 

“It’s still bringing life to Savannah. I’m really glad that people not from Georgia are really using this as their gateway location because it’s really supporting small businesses and stuff,” said Yabut.

News 3 ran into one group of women from Missouri. Despite the pandemic, they say they are packing in as many activities as possible.

Meanwhile, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee is honoring tradition with the 37th annual Celtic Cross Ceremony.

“It is our heritage and our ancestors that we celebrate at this cross. This is the why of our Savannah celebration,” said the event’s main speaker Bernadette Winters.

Savannah District 4 Alderman Nick Palumbo joined several local leaders at the event. He says he is happy St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are getting back to how they used to be.

“There’s a lot more focus on the tradition and the values of St. Patrick’s Day, and we’re seeing greater attendance here and more focus on Bay Street, which is wonderful to celebrate the heritage and tradition of our Irish ancestors that came over and made the journey to our country,” said Palumbo.

At his weekly press conference, Mayor Johnson said he can issue a curfew at any time if celebrations get out of hand. If you are celebrating, his main message is to wear a mask.