CONKLIN, Mich. — The world's shortest St. Patrick's Day parade started in the small Ottawa County community of Conklin back in 1988.

Every year since, Conklin residents and visitors have packed Main Street for a parade that travels a short distance then abruptly ends at the Conklin Bar.

But, Main Street was empty this Tuesday. 

"It's very bizarre," said Monika Schneider who manages the Conklin Bar. "It's surreal to be honest with you."

The bar was forced to cancel the annual parade and the party that follows due to the state's temporary ban of large gatherings and the ordered closure of bars to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. 

"This year is just different," said Kim May. 

She and a small group of individuals gathered on their own and held what was described as a community walk down Main Street at the same time the parade would have been held.

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The informal and unsanctioned event was attended by around 20 area residents. 

"It's what we had to do," said Conklin resident Jim Wahlfield.

"That's something that we don't have control over," Schneider said.

The group of walkers stopped for a short time in front of the closed bar, maintaining a social distance best they could, recognizing a virus is spreading.

"We stayed six feet apart from each other and still celebrated," said Kim May.

"We're far enough apart," Wahlfield added.

For the Conklin Bar, the canceled parade means the loss of its busiest day of the whole year. The bar had stocked up to serve food and spirits to a thousands customers.

"This is our big money maker, our big day to shine and sell," Schneider said. "Unfortunately, that's not going to happen, but we want to make sure the community is safe."

The small group of walkers and Schneider are hopeful everything will be back to normal for next year's gathering.

"Shoulder to shoulder, lots of hugging and lots of loving," said May.

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