South Side Irish Parade gets an early boost
By Steve Metsch firstname.lastname@example.org September 15, 2012 7:24PM
The Larkin & Moran Brothers perform Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, during a party at 115 Bourbon Street in Merrionette Park, Ill., that raised funds for the South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade. | Steve Metsch~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 15, 2012 1:38AM
On a picture postcard Saturday, Jim “Skinny” Sheahan was hoping for rain.
It’s not that he wanted to wash out anybody’s late summer cookout. The former director of the Chicago Mayor’s Office of Special Events just thought a few raindrops would boost attendance at the Halfway to the South Side Irish Parade Party.
It turns out his concern was for naught as, despite sunny skies, 115 Bourbon Street in Merrionette Park saw a steady stream of folks who paid $30 each to attend the party.
The lure of a buffet, unlimited beer, wine or soda and the music of The Larkin & Moran Brothers was strong. Even stronger, Sheahan said, is the sense of community. The parade will be held March 10 down Western Avenue in the Beverly and Morgan Park communities of Chicago’s 19th Ward.
“This is so important to the neighborhood, the fabric of the neighborhood. Everybody wants something we can be proud of, and that’s what our intention is. This gets them a little fired up. I know there’s a million things to do today. Actually, I hoped it was going to rain, but we’ll get 200, 300 people in here,” Sheahan said.
Glancing around at the crowd, he smiled.
“This is good. It gets people in the mood for the parade. The parade was such a success this year. We’ll do the zero tolerance again. It really made a difference,” said Sheahan, one of the people behind the parade’s return this year.
The retooled parade returned in March after a two-year absence. What had been a cozy neighborhood event had become a beer-drenched day marred by dozens of arrests for drinking in 2009. That wasn’t the case this year. The lone arrest was for public urination two hours after the parade was over.
Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th), who initially opposed the parade’s return, now welcomes it with open arms.
“Last year was a wonderful family event. If the same commitment is put forth again, there’s no reason why we can’t keep it safe and for families,” O’Shea said.
This marked the first time a “halfway to the parade” party was held, said Joe Connelly, who co-chairs the parade committee with Kevin Coakley.
Set to run from 2 to 7 p.m., Connelly said at 5:30 the turnout “was impressive.” Coakley, 6 years old in 1979 when he and other neighborhood kids started what morphed into a huge event, said the committee plans to sell 2013 parade gear in December at a storefront on Western Avenue.
The party was needed “because the cost is more than in the past,” parade committee member Jim Davoren said. The biggest part of the estimated $300,000 to present the parade goes to security, Davoren said.
“We’re going to need the businesses and residents to help defray some of the costs,” Davoren said.
On Saturday, raffle tickets were sold for prizes such as Sox and Cubs tickets and a big-screen TV. A split-the-pot raffle found Beverly resident Matthew Hohl buying $10 worth of tickets. He “absolutely” enjoyed seeing the parade again.
The parade may be a considered a neighborhood event, but it’s much more than that, Sheahan said.
He recalled a conversation he had with a couple in Kentucky while waiting out nasty weather earlier this year.
They talked about going to Chicago for a wedding 10 years ago. And when Sheahan said he’s from Beverly, their eyes lit up.
“The man said: ‘Y’all got that parade. That was the most fun we had up there. It was better than the wedding.’ I thought to myself, ‘You know what, we are doing the right thing,’ ” Sheahan said.