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Virus rains on St. Patrick’s Day parade, but Dogtown keeps spirits high

DOGTOWN – For the second year in a row, firetrucks, floats and marching bands will not move down Tamm Avenue on March 17. But in this Irish-as-it-gets neighborhood, St. Patrick’s Day will endure.

Because of the continuing threat brought by COVID-19, Dogtown United and the Ancient Order of Hibernians have cancelled the 2021 St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Dogtown Irish Festival.

In their place, Dogtown United plans three safe and socially distant activities guaranteed to keep the “Top o’ the Mornin’ to Ya” spirit in St. Paddy’s Day.

The neighborhood group is holding a decorating contest to see which house best celebrates St. Patrick’s Day, plus family-friendly photo-op style installations by Painted Black STL. It’s also selling a business passport with coupons and promotions for Dogtown businesses. 

“We’re trying to enhance the neighborhood by still keeping some of the traditions alive but at the same time doing it safely and cautiously,” said Megan Cobb, president of the Dogtown Business Merchants Association and owner of Sweet Em’s Coffee and Ice Cream.

Normally, Colin O’Brien would be in charge of the festival. But as the pandemic continued, he and other organizers came up with a Plan B. 

“We’ve improvised a little bit and gotten creative and come up with some alternative programming in the neighborhood,” O’Brien said. 

In the decorations contest, residents decorated their houses for St. Patrick’s Day and posted pictures on Dogtown United’s Facebook page (@dogtownunited) with the hashtag #Dogtown2021.

“Voting” is now underway through Sunday. The three winners will receive a gift bag with valuable prizes.  

There always was a version of the house decorating contest on Tamm, said Isabel Acevedo, vice president of Dogtown United. “What we’ve done this year is expand that through the neighborhood.”

For a second St. Patrick’s Day project, Dogtown United worked with Painted Black STL, a group  of Black artists in St. Louis, to paint four free-standing murals for families to take pictures with throughout Dogtown. Eugenia Alexander, Jess Donovan, Tyler Harris and Kyla Hawkins painted the murals. They’ve been placed at St. James the Greater School, Dogtown Veterans Memorial Park, Wilkinson Early Childhood Center and Dewey International Studies School.

Dogtown residents are being asked to have their pictures taken in front of all four murals and post them on Facebook with the hashtag #Dogtown2021. The murals were put up on March 1st and will stay until March 31st. 

Kyla Hawkins created “Brigid: goddess of Fire, Creation, and Poems.”
Children stand in front of a painting by Eugenia Alexander depicting plants native to Ireland. The painting is outside St. James the Greater Catholic grade school.

The third project, a “Discover Dogtown” Business Booklet, is meant to help neighborhood merchants who are losing money because of the cancellation of St. Patrick’s Day events last year and this year. 

Sponsored by Dogtown United and the Dogtown Business Merchants Association, the booklet includes a guide to the neighborhood and more than $100 in discounts and special offers to participating Dogtown businesses. Those businesses include Sweet Em’s Coffee and Ice Cream, the Tamm Ave Bar, Nomad, Dogtown Sports Collectibles & Framing, Salon Melange, Alibi Cookies and the Hi-Pointe Drive-In, among many others. Discounts will be valid through Sept. 30, 2021. People can buy books for $15 at

Organizers say it’s good that something is going on to mark the holiday in Dogtown. But the celebration is bittersweet withr the cancellations of the festival and the parade. 

“It has been devastating,” Cobb said. “I grew up in the neighborhood, so I never missed a St. Patrick’s Day in my whole entire life. So there’s a little bit of a heartbreak on the business side. For most businesses, that one day can make quite a difference to them.”

O’Brien agreed that things had been difficult.

“Last year, when we canceled the parade, we were hopeful that we would be able to reschedule it as early as April,” O’Brien said. “So the idea that we’re 12 months past and we still don’t have a parade, it is sad and shocking, but it’s sobering.”

Jim Merkel Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit

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