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South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade planned for March 10

An excited Amber Richard 21 Burbank smiles near start South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade Chicago Illinois Sunday March

An excited Amber Richard, 21, of Burbank, smiles near the start of the South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade in Chicago, Illinois, Sunday, March, 11, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 1, 2012 5:06PM



They may not be on a quest for a mystical pot of gold, but organizers of the South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade are looking for some cash to help pay for next year’s festivities.

And, they’re getting a head start for the March 10 event compared to last year’s three-month blitz to resurrect the South Side tradition from a two-year hiatus.

“There were a lot of up-front activities that needed to happen last year,” said Joe Connolly, the parade committee’s co-chair . “The city didn’t want it back. The alderman didn’t want it back. But, based on all the positive feedback we received, we made our intentions known that we plan to have the parade again this coming March.”

Parade organizers say they’re confident they’ll find plenty of supporters with deep pockets to help underwrite the event. They have scheduled a Halfway to the South Side Irish Parade Party from 2 to 7 p.m. Sept. 15 at 115 Bourbon Street, 3359 W. 115th St., Merrionette Park. Tickets are $30 per person and include a buffet, unlimited beer, wine or soda, and live music — sort of a party for a much bigger party.

Connolly said Wednesday it cost $200,000 to stage this year’s parade ­— that included $40,000 in city fees and $50,000 for private security. He expects a similar tab when the parade marches down Western Avenue next spring in the heart of the Beverly community in Chicago’s 19th Ward.

“We did it this year in less time,” Connolly said. “As long as the community, local businesses and residents are generous, we have the confidence that we can do it again.”

A neighborhood tradition for decades, the parade had turned into a beer-soaked, arrest-filled nightmare that was scrapped after the 2009 edition. That’s the year that saw 54 arrests, most of them for drunken and disorderly behavior. What started as a quaint family event in 1979, had become an embarrassing disaster.

But, after two years without the parade, organizers brought it back this year, promising and delivering a more family-oriented affair. About 150,000 turned out to view the parade and one person was arrested for public urination despite a plethora of portable latrines.

The success convinced the committee to bring the parade back for 2013.

But Connolly admitted the shorter planning process that went into reviving the parade for 2012 was one he would not want to repeat.

Parade committee member Jim Smith recalled sleepless nights earlier this year, wondering what he had gotten himself into.

“There were some tall walls we had to scale. Obviously, early on, the city wasn’t a big fan of us coming back. They wondered why we’d want to resurrect something that had not gone well,” Smith said. “We had to change some minds and attitudes, I think it all worked together and came out well this year.”

A couple of changes planned for next year’s parade include starting at noon instead of 11 a.m. to appease local churches; adding an Emerald Isle Mile fun run on the parade route that morning; adding 20 to 25 entries in the parade; and possibly paying private security to stick around later, Connolly said.

The Emerald Isle Mile, will kick off at 11 a.m. The one-mile fun run will start at Kennedy Park and head north to 104th Street, and is cosponsored by Running Excels, 10328 S. Western Ave. Co-owner Jim Pacente, Connolly, and parade booster Jim Sheahan came up with the idea.

“I think we’ll get about 500 runners. They’ll finish here, walk through the store and get goody bags. We’ll invite them to march in the parade with Running Excels,” Pacente said.

Connolly, who cochairs the parade committee with Kevin Coakley, said it’s easier to plan in advance.

“It was a heroic effort to bring it back in the time frame in which we did. Now we’re doing this in a more planned manner and can spread the work out over six to nine months instead of two to three,” he said.

Getting a head start may result in a longer parade.

“We had about 65 entrants this year. We’ll bump that up to 80 or 90, but we’ll look to keep the parade to around two hours,” he said.

The committee has about $10,000 saved up for next year’s parade, and will rely on donations and fundraisers like the one scheduled for Sept. 15. Parade merchandise will go on sale in December, just in time for Christmas. A golf outing raised money this summer. Banner sales are another source. So is a cash prize raffle.

Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th) now supports the parade, Connolly said. O’Shea did not return a telephone message Wednesday.

The parade committee can’t apply for a city permit until the first business day of 2013, and will do just that, Connolly said.

“We want to have a parade that everyone can be proud of,” Connolly said.

Visit www.southsideirishparade.org for more information about the Sept. 15 fund-raiser.



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