Irish parade supporters OK with ‘crackdown’ on rowdy behavior
BY JAIME ANGIO Correspondent February 15, 2013 10:10PM
Volunteers Beth Kelly (left), Margaret McGann (center), and Shannon Zofkie (right) sell keys to win various prizes during the fundraiser for the South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade at 115 Bourbon Street in Merrionette Park, Illinois, Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. | Karen Gioia ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 18, 2013 6:59AM
Supporters of the South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade turned out in droves Friday night for a fundraiser at 115 Bourbon Street in Merrionette Park.
The fundraiser helps offset the increasing costs of hosting the annual parade in Chicago’s Beverly community — slated this year for March 10 — but organizers said it also promotes the parade as a family-oriented event rather than a fest for rowdy drunks that it once had become.
To that end, attendees Friday night said they didn’t mind that the Chicago City Council this week approved tougher penalties for those drinking or urinating in public near the parade.
“I think it’s great,” said Cindy Kacz, of Mount Greenwood. “My husband is a Chicago police officer, and they don’t like to deal with them (drunks) either. The people have the luxury of being able to go to such a wonderful event. Why should they (drunks) take advantage of it?”
Karen Graziano, of Evergreen Park, who attends the fundraiser for the good food, bands and to hang out with friends, also is in favor of the crackdown.
“I think the tougher laws are good. There is nothing wrong with that,” she said. “It should be more family-oriented. We don’t need a bunch of drunks all over the place.”
Pat McCool, of Chicago, concurred.
”The younger crowd got out of control and it’s not about getting drunk and tearing up the neighborhood,” he said. “You got to have respect for people’s property, that’s the bottom line.”
McCool said he was on hand Friday just looking forward to meeting a lot of friends from the neighborhood.
“I grew up here,” he said. “It’s the spirit of everyone coming together. We all grew up here, and we never leave.”
A more family-oriented parade returned last year after a three-year hiatus due to rowdy and drunken behavior.
At the behest of Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th), in whose ward the parade is held, the city council on Wednesday agreed to impose tougher penalties on those caught drinking within 800 feet of any parade in progress in Chicago. The minimum fine for adults rose from $100 to $500, while the maximum doubled to $1,000. The alternative to the fines is up to six months in jail.
Adults who relieve themselves in public within 200 feet of a parade in progress face similar fines and from five to 10 days in jail, while minors will be slapped with $500 fines or required to perform 25 hours of community service.
Those at the fundraiser weren’t concerned with potential troublemakers, however, instead focusing on the community spirit.
Food, beer, wine and live entertainment were included in the $30 ticket price.
“I think more than anything it’s just great to get everyone together and have a lot of fun,” said Joe Connelly, co-chair of the parade committee.
Five local high school teams that won state championships in the past year were the guests of honor: Brother Rice’s rugby team, St. Rita’s hockey team, Mount Carmel’s football team, Marist’s softball team, and Leo’s track and field squad.
The parade is honoring Chicago’s first responders as its grand marshals, and remembering those who died in the line of duty. That includes police officer Michael Flisk, whose wife Nora attended the fundraiser in his honor.
“We’re glad it’s back,” Flisk said of the parade. “The community is a very strong community, and it’s wonderful and it brings a lot of togetherness and neighbors and families. ... it’s an extraordinary parade.”
Parade committee co-chair Kevin Coakley also believes the community is “unique.”
“The South Side of Chicago. It’s a tightknit community, and we come together often, and it’s our working community,” he said. “This parade kind of exemplifies what’s it’s all about.”
The fundraiser drew more than 1,200 people and raised nearly $35,000 just in ticket sales.
The 2013 parade is scheduled to start at noon at 103rd Street and Western Avenue.