COLUMBIA — There is “zero chance” the annual St. Pat’s in Five Points festival will be able to proceed as it normally would in 2021, Five Points Association President Steve Cook told Free Times on Jan. 6.
That still holds after a Jan. 7 meeting of the event's planning committee, but Cook said they left determined to make some reduced version of the event happen.
This follows 2020, when the association was forced to pull the plug on its annual March event, set to be headlined by Mount Pleasant indie rock favorites Band of Horses, just 10 days before it was scheduled to take place as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.
St. Pat’s is one of the biggest, most visible happenings in Columbia, shutting down every street in the University of South Carolina-adjacent village neighborhood and hosting local and national bands on a handful of stages. Crowds for the reliably drunken affair, which generates the bulk of the Five Points Association’s operating budget, regularly exceed 30,000.
COVID-19 cases have been spiking at record high across the state in recent weeks, and the vaccine rollout has been slower than expected.
“Even if I wanted to, there’s zero chance, obviously, we could do a festival,” Cook said on Jan. 6. “We would be the first people in the United States to have a music fest, and we would certainly make some headlines. But no, as is, it’s not going to happen.”
St. Pat’s is far from the only event to see coronavirus continue to trample its plans.
The City of Columbia’s Famously Hot New Year block party went virtual in December, and local hallmarks like the Rosewood Crawfish Festival and Jam Room Music Festival were also canceled in 2020.
Savannah also announced this week that its own St. Pat’s festivities would again be canceled this year.
After the Jan. 7 meeting, Cook told Free Times that the committee considered the possibility of still holding the annual St. Pat's parade, but ultimately determined it was a no go.
They're leaning toward putting on a virtual concert, perhaps with a small in-person crowd in attendance, isolated in individual parcels, much in the way the Cola Concerts series did at the Columbia Speedway Entertainment Center for a handful of dates in the fall. They also believe they can make the annual St. Pat's running race happen in some sort of socially distanced or virtually adjusted way.
"We’re going to go and proceed with a St. Patrick’s Day event in Five Points," Cook said after the meeting. "It’s just obviously not going to look like it has in the past."
Whatever they do, safety will be the priority, he emphasized.
“We certainly don’t want to be reckless,” Cook told Free Times on Jan. 6, explaining that any COVID-adjusted plan would not be a monetary gain for the association. “If we do (something), it would strictly just be out of wanting to do something to kind of have an event.”
He said that trying to help out neighborhood businesses struggling to keep going during the pandemic is motivating him to at least explore some sort of alternative event.
“It’s a big day for a lot of people down here,” Cook lamented. “It’s just another sort of kick at a lot of people while they’re down. I feel the responsibility to at least hear all the options and weigh all the different possibilities.”