In its second year, South Side Irish Family Fest embraces its less raucous roots

If it’s St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago, you can be sure there’s a celebration somewhere. But if a big parade isn’t your thing, be sure to check out the South Side Irish Family Fest.

Last year, the legendary-and raucous-South Side parade was replaced with the fest, now a two-day event. The over-21 crowd has their fun on Friday and Saturday nights, while daytime Saturday is reserved for families.

“This is a way to get back to some of the parade’s roots-the real roots of heritage, culture and families being together,” says organizer Grace Kuikman.

The family fest begins at noon at the Beverly Arts Center. Kuikman advises wearing comfortable shoes, and be prepared to find street parking.

In the spirit of togetherness, families are invited to bake a loaf of soda bread to be judged.

“People are so proud of their family recipes,” Kuikman says. “I just really liked seeing how much the families were engaging.”

Kids can also try their hand at free crafts, like leprechaun hats, and watch a short musical fairy tale-with an Irish twist-from Chicago Kids Company.

While the kids are occupied, mom and dad can check out the vendors selling authentic Irish wares, sample traditional fest food or down an Irish pint.

Even the family pet gets in on the action with the “Lucky Dog” contest, where costumed pups compete to display their Irish pride.

If you’re still in the mood for a parade, you won’t be disappointed. Kids march around the art center’s block, floats, bikes and wagons in tow. The parade begins at 2:30 p.m., so come dressed to march. It’s chilly out there!

And just as with the old parade, you don’t have to have Irish blood in your veins to enjoy the day.

“I think the fest is welcoming to everybody,” says Kuikman, who is Dutch. “Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago.”

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