Fleadh brings parade, food, music to Oak Forest
BY JAIME ANGIO Correspondent March 9, 2013 6:24PM
Joe Farrell, 4, of Oak Forest, high fives a leprechaun while his mother Kelly Farrell looks on (right) at the Oak Forest Fleadh. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 9, 2013 2:27AM
Shamrocks, leprechauns, green beads and music. Those were just a few of the highlights of the fourth annual Oak Forest Fleadh on Saturday morning.
Gaelic for “festival,” the Fleadh (pronounced “flah”) was held on Cicero Avenue from 151st and 159th streets.
The daylong festivities started off with a 5K run. This was followed with an open bike ride on Cicero Avenue, which was closed off. People took full advantage of the space, inline skating, biking, skateboarding and tricycling.
For 10-year-old Catherine Petit, of Oak Forest, it was an opportunity to be something else.
“It’s really cool and neat because you get to ride around and act like you’re a bunch of cars,” Catherine said.
Local businesses were open early for the Fleadh.
Tom Spellman, manager of the Blarney Stone Pub, 15400 Cicero Ave, said he had seen a steady flow of people since early morning.
“We opened at 7 a.m. for an Irish breakfast and a Bloody Mary bar, mimosas and Irish music,” he said.
George West, of Oak Lawn, was inside the Blarney Stone Pub’s Fleadh tent and was warming up with a cool beer in hand. Rest assured, he already had his coffee.
“I came here to the Fleadh and especially to be at the Blarney Stone because it’s the greatest bar on the South Side,” West side.
West said he wasn’t going to attend Sunday’s South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade. He chose the Fleadh because it has more of a family vibe.
“It’s a lot less crowded than the South Side parade,” West said. “The whole family aspect, and I have my little guy running around. I’m really looking forward to the parade. The kids get a big kick out of the parade, and my family, we all get together for this event.”
Spellman expected about 4,000 to 5,000 people to walk through the pub Saturday.
“We have The Mahones playing today and (Sunday) — it’s a big draw, and they play Dropkick Murphy’s,” he said.
There was no shortage of people enjoying the music playing throughout the Fleadh.
Stephanie Knispel, of Oak Forest, was warming up inside Taps Pub, 15427 Cicero Ave., which was serving corned beef sandwiches, beer and Bloody Marys.
Knispel wouldn’t miss the Fleadh.
“I come every year,” she said. “The bars and the people and the leprechauns. It’s just great. I started at 8:30 a.m. and already had a corned beef sandwich.”
“It’s fabulous,” Knispel said. “Everybody gets so excited, and all the bars, everyone gets together and they have their T-shirts on and tents here and there. Especially the transportation factor, they come and pick you up and bring you to bars. The pub crawl is great.”
The parade kicked off at 11 a.m. with Oak Forest fire trucks leading the procession. There were floats from local businesses tossing out candy to excited children, and sports teams representing Oak Forest walking the route. The Oak Forest band came last, garnering applause as it played.
Another highlight and a crowd favorite was the Chicago Stockyard Kilty Band. One festival attendee appreciated the sounds of home.
Helen Barrett, originally from County Meath in Ireland and now of Crestwood, said the Fleadh is a great way to celebrate her Irish heritage.
“This is the second year I’ve been to the Fleadh. It’s really great. ... I love, love the Irish Stockyard Kilty Band.”
Taylor Drabeck, 8, of Oak Forest, is a Fleadh veteran and was delighted to attend the festival again.
“It’s really cool. My favorite part is the dancing and the candy,” Taylor said.
“My grandma passed away a little while ago, and she was 100 percent Irish and she was born on St. Paddy’s day, so today I’m thinking of her,” he said.
When the parade ended, 11 year-old Nolan Quinn had a large bag of candy.
“Well, I ran the 5K today, and it’s all pretty cool,” Nolan said, decked out in green beads and shamrocks.
“The shamrocks I just got for random. But I’m enjoying the candy and the parade. The candy is just flying everywhere,” he said.