S. Side parade is back, we hope for good
SouthtownStar editorial January 17, 2012 9:18PM
Updated: February 19, 2012 8:18AM
We welcomed the news this week that one of the Southland’s great traditions, the South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade, will return along Western Avenue after a two-year absence.
The parade committee, in a close vote, had decided to cancel it shortly after the 2009 edition — citing concerns that it had grown too big and unmanageable, resulting in security problems and many complaints about public drunkenness and rowdy behavior. The parade that year drew more than 300,000 spectators, and 54 people were arrested.
In retrospect, canceling it was an overreaction. Parade organizers shouldn’t have killed the popular, 31-year celebration of Irish heritage. They should have tried to fix it by tightening security and reducing the flow of booze in public.
In getting a city permit to resume the parade, that’s what parade officials pledged to do — hire a private security firm to help Chicago police impose strict crowd control by setting up an “exterior boundary” and preventing people from getting past it with alcoholic beverages. The committee chairman compared the security measures to what’s done at Taste of Chicago and other major public events.
We sympathize with the residents of the Beverly and Morgan Park communities whose neighborhoods have been increasingly plagued with litter, public urination and loud and rowdy behavior on parade day in recent years. Hopefully, such problems will be severely curtailed on March 11, but we understand their skepticism.
It’s shared by Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th), who strongly opposed the return of the parade. In an email to ward residents, he sharply criticized the security plan as “terribly insufficient and very difficult to execute.”
O’Shea may be right. It’s up to the parade organizers and the owners of the Western Avenue taverns, who profit handsomely from the parade (and are helping pay for the security firm), to show that it can be well managed.
We want them to succeed because the South Side Irish Parade is something that sets the Southland apart. It’s our Mardi Gras. Now that it’s back, we don’t want to lose it again.