Oak Forest turns green for annual fleadh
By Erin Gallagher and Jaime Angio Correspondents March 8, 2014 6:32PM
Updated: May 11, 2014 3:19PM
When it comes to celebrating the Irish, Oak Forest knows how to get its green on.
The winter weather likely affected the annual fleadh’s turnout. Still, young and old braved cold temperatures and lingering snow to join the festivities Saturday.
There were not as many people as in past years, said Al Bukowski and his son Dave Bukowski. Both members of the Oak Forest Emergency Management Agency, they were stationed along the Cicero Avenue parade route.
“I was expecting twice as many people,” Al Bukowski said.
The cold didn’t hold back young Notre Dame fan Aiden Sellers, 4, and his dad, Harry Sellers, who watched the parade for more than an hour. Other kids, such as Cooper Grabowski, 18 months, and Charlie Grabowski, 4, blanketed themselves in a red Radio Flyer. One grandma, Irene Diericks, parked along the route so her grandkids could race back to the warm car in between floats. Even the dogs wore coats, including Natalie Shepherd’s pup, Ringo.
“It’s a little cold, but it’s nice to be out,” said Rose Ornelas, who said she was sick of the winter’s cabin fever.
No matter what was cloaked on the outside, nearly everyone, it seemed, had something green on. Hats, scarves, beads, wigs, spray paint, eyelashes, stickers, lipstick — green was everywhere, the sillier the better. The mustache trend has made it to Oak Forest, because the sheer number of stuck-on-’staches was enough to make even Tom Sellick green with envy.
And then there were Blackhawks fans. Green jerseys with Blackhawks emblems were everywhere you looked.
“We’re Irish Hawks fans. You gotta wear the best of the best,” said Sharon Forde, who wore jerseys along with her friends Jim McGrath and Ashley Simon.
In Gaelic, the word “fleadh” means festival. In Oak Lawn, it means big sales for some business owners. Bars did well by the tapping of the green — beer, that is. Tom Spellman, co-owner of the Blarney Stone Pub, said it would have a couple of thousand people before 5 p.m. Saturday, charging each a $5 cover. The fleadh is even bigger than St. Patrick’s Day, he said.
Marcotte’s Bar and Grill opened to a flow of customers for Bloody Marys at 8 a.m. Dave Birmingham was one of them. He loves that businesses alongside Cicero were open early, he said.
Other bars, such as Mrs. O’Brien’s Pub, offered great service with a cozy environment. Bartender Sue Joseph said the weather was unpredictable so she dressed in layers to work in the outdoor tent.
Dedicated runners faced the freezing wind in the 5K race.
“It was actually really cold running north,” said Rosemary Kelly, of Chicago’s Wrigleyville neighborhood, whose time of about 23 minutes made her the first female to cross the finish line.
Another runner, Cathy Jozwiak, of Justice, said she did not race this year. Instead, she joined her children, Jessica, 9, and Michael, 12, at Beggars Pizza.
“We’re having breakfast, and then we’re going to watch the parade,” Jozwiak said. “(The kids) didn’t get to see the parade last year because I ran the race, and a little bit of snow isn’t going to stop us from having fun.”