Mayor Brad Hart waves at passing vehicles during the SaPaDaPaSo Race Track Parade on Saturday, March 13, 2021, at Hawkeye Downs in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

CEDAR RAPIDS — One year ago, the long-running St. Patrick’s Day Parade, a beloved tradition in Cedar Rapids, was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, then in its early days.

The parade, which would have marked its 45th year in 2020, attracts thousands of spectators and participants to downtown Cedar Rapids on St. Patrick’s Day, rain, sleet or shine.

Signs line the road to Hawkeye Downs to indicate the SaPaDaPaSo first and last, one of a kind race track parade. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Organizers with the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade Society, known as SaPaDaPaSo, decided to continue the tradition in 2021, with a twist.

Rather than have crowds gather downtown while the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the parade was moved to Hawkeye Downs in southwest Cedar Rapids, where they held what was called “the first and last, one of a kind race track parade.”

Spectators stayed in their vehicles and drove around to view parade entries that remained stationary inside the track.

By the time the two-hour parade was scheduled to end at 4 p.m., more than 700 vehicles had circled the track, with more still in line. The official total was 824 vehicles, with the first 200 receiving “goodie bags.”

For some, the waiting was the hardest part, with a few families peeling out of the queue before reaching their destination. Traffic lined Sixth Street SW in both directions, with waits that stretched more than an hour to get onto the Hawkeye Downs grounds, where a multi-pronged tentacle of traffic then twisted around the parking lot.

Children waved at passing cars to pass the time, and one girl even got out of the family’s SUV to turn cartwheels on the side of the road to relieve the boredom.

Still, spectators were all smiles once they entered the track to drive past dozens of participants dressed mostly in green, with bagpipe music filling the venue. The pleasant  March weather felt perfect for a parade.

See photos of a past St. Patrick’s Day Parade and more from the 2021 parade, below: