CINCINNATI — A typical Opening Day Eve would include preparations for tens of thousands of Reds fans to line the streets of Over-the-Rhine, Downtown and The Banks around Great American Ball Park for the annual Findlay Market Opening Day Parade.
Like last year, this year's celebration won't be typical. But that's not stopping those who normally would be making parade preparations this time of year from finding different ways to celebrate.
Claire Stewart, president and founder of Red Hot Dancing Queens, remembers last year like it was yesterday.
"Everything changed" after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she said, "and it was parades are on pause; everything's on pause."
Stewart and the Dancing Queens took part in the 2015 parade and became hooked, but this year -- and last -- they're playing it safe.
"This isn't the world's first pandemic, and history has shown that parades are not a good thing when everyone gathers, so right now they're on pause," she said.
The Queens aren't the only ones playing it safe this year. Nearby on Third Street, at Kitty's Sports Grill, the Reds Opening Day Parade always meant big business and even bigger crowds. This year, they're downgrading due to the pandemic.
"Two years ago, Opening Day: 150 people in here," said Kitty's co-owner, Billy Watson. "This year, we'll probably top out between 60 and 70."
Cincinnati police Capt. Doug Weisman spoke earlier this week about the importance of spreading out and masking up, especially for those who plan to visit The Banks and its new, 85-acre open-container zone, also known as a designated outdoor refreshment area (DORA).
Weisman said his police district has spoken with area business owners after the DORA's first weekend yielded crowds some said felt COVID-unfriendly.
"We met with all of the business owners down here yesterday, and we're tweaking some things because we're going to adjust and get flexible to make things better this weekend," he said.
Stewart hopes next year will bring safer times.
"I'm really hoping it's going to be 2022 Findlay Market Opening Day Parade. Fingers, toes and my tutus are crossed," she said.