From it's humble roots with a dozen or so marchers three decades ago the South Side Irish parade has grown into a nationally recognized spectacle. Thousands of people travel by bus from throughout the area to take it all in.
Jerry Rodriguez hosts a party every year and takes pictures of the parade.
"We shut down that whole Sunday. I know neighbors who leave town for the weekend. You're trapped in your own house," said Jerry Rodriguez, Beverly resident.
This year's crowd, estimated at about 300,000, may have been the largest ever. President Obama even bragged about it to the Irish prime minister.
"What you're really missing out on is the South Side Irish Parade in Chicago, which I think is one of the great events in America," said Obama.
But this year there were also problems; some 50 arrests, reports of public urination and drunkenness throughout the neighborhood.
"People are sad but they know it had to happen. It's grown to a point where it can't be held in a residential community like this," said Ald. Ginger Rugai, 19th Ward.
That's why after debating the issue for the last couple years parade committee members voted on Tuesdsay night to end the tradition.
"It was a very, very difficult decision. It was wrenching for everyone on the committee. We feel like we've made the right decision," said Mary Beth Sheehan, Parade Committee spokesperson.
Some business owners disagree. For bar owners along Western Avenue the parade is the biggest day of the year.
"It's a shame that they couldn't find a better solution than just to, you know, take it away like that," said Mary McDermott, bar manager.
While this marks the end of the South Side Irish parade, it is hardly the end of the celebration of Irish heritage in the Beverly neighborhood. The parade committee plans to come up with a series of smaller events next year that are more family oriented.
(PRESS RELEASE) SOUTH SIDE IRISH ST. PATRICK'S DAY PARADE PLANS FOR 2010
Let this release serve as notice that the South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee is not planning to stage a parade in its present form in March of 2010.
This decision was not arrived at lightly. For 31 years, this parade was a staple of the Beverly/Morgan Park and Mt. Greenwood communities - a celebration of faith, family and heritage that was cherished by thousands. Founded in 1979 by the Hendry and Coakley families, it was intended to instill in this community an appreciation for the Irish heritage that so many of its residents share.
This parade was an eagerly anticipated annual event which celebrated families, many of whom have created decades long traditions that we hope will endure. But what began as a neighborhood parade is now an event of international proportions. More than 300,000 people typically flock to the Beverly area each year, and the sheer volume has become more than the neighborhood can reasonably accommodate. With these numbers comes a collection of issues that strain both the host community and those individuals charged with effectively managing the crowds. Additionally, the amount of resources required to launch the event has become overwhelming to the community.
The Committee would like to thank the tens of thousands of parade faithful who supported this event for more than 30 years. The multigenerational families who turned out along Western Avenue each year, along with the fine organizations featured in the Line of March, were the essence of what made this parade so special. We would also like to thank the Chicago Police
Department for the effort they put into managing the ever-growing crowd while working to maintain the dignity of the event.
While we regret the need to alter such a fine tradition, the Committee feels that suspending the South Side Irish Parade in its present form is the just and responsible thing to do. It is our hope, however, that this will not mean an end to the neighborhood's annual celebration. The Committee will work to create a series of alternate events that will return us to what the parade's founders had in mind - a neighborhood-friendly celebration of Irish heritage. Please look for news of our plans later this year.
Thank you for your support,
The South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee