A South Side Irish Parade revival?
By Mark Konkol Staff Reporteremail@example.com August 2, 2011 12:58AM
The 2006 Southside Irish Parade, in the Beverly neighborhood. [Keith Hale/Sun-Times]
Updated: November 2, 2011 5:40PM
The South Side Irish — at least some of them — want their St. Patrick’s Day parade back.
On Monday, about 50 folks angling to revive the South Side Irish Parade — which marched for the last time in 2009 after 31 consecutive years — gathered at the Beverly Arts Center to discuss how to resurrect a more sober version of the St. Patrick’s Day tradition on Western Avenue.
After the last parade — which was crowded with more than 300,000 revelers and resulted in 54 arrests, including an aggravated battery of a police officer — the South Side Irish Parade Committee decided in a 12-9 split vote to pull the plug on the Mardi Gras-like event.
James “Skinny” Sheahan, presided over the “public airing of feelings” aimed at brainstorming ideas for the parade’s successful “one-year trial” return in 2012.
“The whole parade was a victim of its own success. I think it’s a fixable problem, but we have to have a consensus and as many people as possible on board and have a plan. It’s been gone for two years, and I think that’s a good thing,” said Sheahan, who was former Mayor Daley’s parade and special events czar for a decade. “If we start over, I think it will be a good thing again. We have to do it right.”
That means having “zero tolerance” for public drinking during the parade.
“If the parade comes back, it’s going to be part of a bigger thing. It’s not just the parade. We’re looking at making this a whole weekend of activities, positive activities,” Sheahan said. “The parade has to be refocused. It has to be about what it was originally. It has to be about families. There should be no alcohol [on the street] during the parade, period.”
The committee is considering proposals that call for a parade that is shorter in time and length, starts earlier and includes a no-drinking enforcement perimeter surrounding the route. Police and private security would monitor Metra trains and CTA buses for beer-swilling parade-goers, patrol side streets for drinkers with open containers and add police checkpoints aimed at keeping private “beer buses” from suburban and North Side bars from entering the neighborhood on parade day, among other things.
“It started as a guy having a six-pack and cooler on the parade route. It was no big deal. Then, it started to get really out of control. People walking around with kegs on their shoulder,” parade committee spokesman Jim Davoren said. “It’s gotta be controlled.”
Davoren said the committee has been receptive to the idea of bringing back the parade on a trial basis, but no final decision on the parade’s fate has been made.
“Do it for one year and see what happens,” Sheahan said. “The sad thing about it is that there are so many little kids on the parade route. It’s a great day for the neighborhood. It’s unfortunate some idiots come in and goof it up for everyone.”