Courtesy of the south Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade
Many St. Patrick's Day parades are ovehauling their images,
promising family-friendly, alcohol-free atmospheres instead of the
traditional ale and antics.
St. Patrick's Day is better known for green beer and rowdy
behavior than family fun. But with aging Irish baby boomers who
want to share their family roots, the parades are working on
G-ratings and trying to change the image of the hard-drinking,
fighting Irish. "It's not true-we're a higher class of people than
that," says Bill King, an organizer for Chicago's St. Patrick's Day
Parade. The parade, always a stop for national and local
politicians before an election primary, is a tradition more than 75
years old. The event starts at 10:45 a.m. when the Chicago River is
dyed green. The parade, which will include more than 60 floats and
several thousand marchers, dancers and bands, steps off at noon.
And, King says, the police will be cracking down on the rowdy
behavior. The South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade is in its
25th year. Organizers say the parade is the largest community St.
Patrick's Day parade outside of Ireland. And they do consider
themselves family friendly-which means no booze. The parade began
in 1979 with 17 children from West Morgan Park who pushed a baby
buggy decorated with the county flags of Ireland. They circled the
block twice. Pat Coakley, one of the original 17 and this year's
parade chairman, says, "It's still very much a family-oriented
parade." Coakley expects 200,000 people to turn out for this year's
parade, and the 100 entrants will include a festive stream of
bagpipes, Irish dancers, Irish Setters and Wolfhounds, green and
orange floats and, of course, the original baby carriage. But all
who walk the dozen blocks down Western Avenue from 103rd to 115th
streets are required to sign a pledge to respect an audience of
families and children. No alcohol and no electioneering. Those who
violate the rules are banned from ever again marching in this
event. It's a noble idea. But parents should remember those on the
sidelines have not signed pledges. So, you may find yourself
moving the children to escape from the imbibing fans. For South
Side parade information, call (773) 239-7755 or visit
www.southsideirishparade.org. For the route and information
on the St. Patrick's Day in downtown Chicago, call (312) 942-9188
or visit www.chicagostpatsparade.com.
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