The global coronavirus pandemic has forced the cancellation of one of Columbia’s biggest parties for the second straight year.
St. Pat’s in Five Points, a nearly 40-year St. Patrick’s Day weekend tradition in the capital city, has officially been canceled for 2021, according to Five Points Association board chairman Steve Cook. This year’s cancellation was first reported by Columbia’s Free Times.
The 2020 edition of St. Pat’s in Five Points was one of the first large cultural events to be called off near the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Then the association said earlier this year that it was going to try to forge ahead with a smaller, modified version of the festival for 2021.
In the end, that simply didn’t work out, Cook said.
“Obviously, we weren’t going to be able to do a festival like we normally would have,” Cook said. “We tried to piece together some other options where we possibly do a limited concert, something like that. We just couldn’t make it work. Frankly, all that stuff costs money, and we’ve just been battered through this whole (pandemic), especially not having two St. Patrick’s Days in a row.”
The Five Points Association also was slotted to receive abut $125,000 less in city hospitality tax funding for the current budget year, as compared to the previous year, according to city records. A host of organizations saw their H-tax funding — which is meant to promote tourism-driving programs — slashed this year as the city’s budget was pounded by the pandemic.
Cook was disappointed this year’s festival had to be canceled. St. Pat’s in Five Points is perhaps South Carolina’s most widely regarded St. Patrick’s Day celebration, with as many as 40,000 people attending in a given year. The party typically hosts a number of bands. Recent headliners have included Dashboard Confessional in 2019 and St. Paul and the Broken Bones in 2017.
“Everybody knows we are in a pandemic,” Cook said. “Everybody knows it’s not possible to have a large concert. But when you hear ‘St. Pat’s is canceled,’ it sort of kicks you in the stomach a little bit. I think that shows you how significant it is to the fabric and culture of Columbia. ... It just reminds you of how much (the pandemic) has affected everybody, not only economically and their health, but just the things we take for granted, coming together and celebrating.”
The Five Points announcement comes at a time when the COVID-19 vaccine rollout is slowly, but steadily, starting to gain a foothold in South Carolina. State Department of Health and Environmental Control records show that nearly 814,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered in the Palmetto State.
Cook, who owns Saluda’s restaurant in Five Points, holds out hope that St. Pat’s can return next year.
“It’s a big deal in Columbia,” Cook said. “It’s almost a little serendipitous, because 2022 is the 40th anniversary (of the festival), which is obviously a big deal. Hopefully in 2022 we come back bigger than we’ve ever done it.”