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Quad-Citians still sought St. Patrick's Day fun Saturday despite COVID-19 concerns

Quad-Citians still sought St. Patrick's Day fun Saturday despite COVID-19 concerns

The St. Patrick’s Day party Saturday at Kavanaugh's Hilltop Bar & Grill, Rock Island, was energetic.

A band in a big, white tent belted out passionate covers — older Janis Joplin tunes before switching to Lizzo and current pop charts.

The tent’s crowd, liberally dusted with green clothing and accessories, pumped fists, shook hips and swayed with zeal.

They hugged, laughed and took pictures for social media. 

Though exuberant, the crowd was smaller than normal — in a typical year, thousands often partake in the St. Patrick's Day fun. This year, turnout was a fraction of that. 

In recent days, the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. brought cancelations and strict guidelines for how many people can gather in the Quad-Cities. On Wednesday, the annual, bistate St. Patrick Society's Grand Parade was canceled.

But the party went on Saturday at Kavanaugh's.

Tim Kavanaugh, whose family owns the bar, said the event typically makes up 7-10% of yearly sales. He expected that percentage to be smaller by the end of Saturday's festivities. 

“They wanted me to have this party,” Kavanaugh said of the venue's fans on social media. 

Davenport's downtown, usually filled with crowds for the St. Patrick's parade and afterparty, was equally sparse. Like at Kavanaugh's, people were out, though fewer in number.

Elsewhere in the Quad-Cities, local stores showed effects of the outbreak. Aisles normally stocked with disinfectant spray, rubbing alcohol and other sanitizing products were empty. 

Patrick Rifley, who set up the stage lighting and other equipment at Kavanaugh's, said he has had several cancellations because of COVID-19. He also does work at casinos and other venues, and said cancelations have started to add up.

He bought equipment for the casino events with the intention of paying off the purchase with the money he made during the events.

“Now all of those shows are cancelled,” Rifley said.

Laurel Wassenhove, 48, Milan, was one of the Kavanaugh's patrons.

She said she normally goes to the parade and several other St. Patrick’s Day events. Some friends she sees only on St. Patrick's Day, so she initially thought she wouldn't get to see them this year. Then she heard Kavanaugh's party was still on. 

Wassenhove said she takes COVID-19 seriously, and is trying to keep herself healthy as a precaution.

She pointed to other parts of life that go on, though, such as work buying groceries. 

“I’m not taking it lightly," she said. "However, I do think we have to keep living our lives."

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