South Siders celebrate without Irish Parade

March 15, 2010 8:51:25 AM PDT
This is Chicago's first year without the South Side Irish Parade since it was canceled after becoming a victim of its own success: too many people causing too much trouble.

Many residents and business owners in the Beverly, Mt. Greenwood and Morgan Park neighborhoods were disappointed that something meant to celebrate their Irish roots is now just a memory.

Sunday, they did what they could to carry on the South Side Irish tradition.

"We're still happy for the parade, but it ain't here," one person told ABC7 Chicago.

For Chicagoans Alex Vlassopoulos and Elaine Conley, no parade didn't mean no party.

"We're here to have fun. Just because the parade ain't here, don't mean you can't have fun. I got the wig on. I got it all on today," they said.

For the first time since 1979, the South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade did not march down Western Avenue on Sunday afternoon. The event which drew some 300,000 people to the Chicago's Beverly and Morgan Park neighborhoods was missed by some who felt like a part of tradition had been lost.

"It was great the see the little Irish girls dancing and everyone having a good time. It was fun," said Marc Coghlan, a South Side resident.

"It's just sad it had to come down to this," said Corinne Coghlan, also a South Side resident.

Despite the parade's absence, many still plan to celebrate in other ways. With rumors of a pub crawl, bar owner Al Little was hoping and planning for a busy day.

"It's very challenging. Nobody knows what's gong to happen. Facebook had 13,000 coming out. We're just expecting a crowded bar," said Little, who owns Dinger's Sports Bar.

But other business owners feared the impact of no parade on their bottom line.

"I think it's going to hit bar owners the most. A lot [of them] depend on the parade. They make a lot of money off the parade," Keegan's Pub's Lisa Barrintes said.

Police were on the lookout Sunday for bar overcrowding. They also were looking to stop any drinking of alcohol on the streets.

While some neighborhood residents are sad the parade it gone, they don't miss the rowdy behavior and the public drunkenness that came along with it.

"People are looking forward to having house parties and celebrating Irish heritage without all the shenanigans that goes on every year," Morgan Park resident Jaime Monahan Said.

Some of those disappointed over the parade's demise, attended an Irish Wake in its honor.

"It's too bad it happened, but it's better for the neighborhood, at least for now. I don't know what the future will hold," said Mary Ann Coakley, parade co-founder.

Perhaps new traditions like block parties and kids parades will become favorites filled with Irish spirit.

"We did want to bring it back to the roots and the kids and families and neighborhood," said John Doran, kids' parade organizer.

It's way too early to know if committee members would even consider bringing the parade back. Some residents and definitely some business owners wish they would, especially if there were some way to avoid the problems of the past while celebrating Irish heritage.