The Chicago South Side Irish Parade has a great history, and as of last year was one of the largest neighbourhood parades outside of Ireland. Started in 1979 by George Hendry and Pat Coakley, it grew from 17 children marching around the block to an event hosting over 15,000 marchers and 250,000 spectators each year.
In fact it got so big it moved away from having that local feel, and in 2009 the numbers made it difficult to control. This year it’s re-inventing itself and the organising committee have decided to steer it back towards it’s original community roots.
The celebrations are being renamed as the South Side Irish Parade Family Fest, and will take place on Saturday, March 13. The parade itself won’t be on the schedule, but there are a whole range of family activities planned, topped off with a live performance by the Hothouse Flowers in the evening.On the Sunday (March 14) St. Cajetan Catholic Church will hold its annual Irish Mass, and residents are invited to the Beverly Arts Center afterwards for a blessing and reception. As is the tradition everyone is encouraged to continue the celebrations in their homes that afternoon with family and friends.
Can one become two?
Many Chicago Irish will miss the parade and the large occasion that grew around it, but it’s also understandable why the committee had to have a rethink. Whether this will lead to a new parallel event waits to be seen.
George Kelleher from Evergreen Park has started a Facebook page inviting everyone to come along on Sunday 14th. The suggestion is to have a pub crawl which will either be a farewell party for the parade or, if problem free, could be the start of something new?
Whichever way you look at it, Irish spirit is definitely alive and kicking in Chicago! :-)
If you’re from the South Side what do you think, and what would you like to see in future years?