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Winter relief? South Side Irish parade just weeks away

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Updated: March 8, 2014 6:40AM

Standing in a sport coat and shivering, Tom McGourty had a simple message Thursday morning outside a grocery store in Chicago’s 19th Ward.

“Just think how happy we’ll be in a few short weeks,” said McGourty, an organizer for this year’s South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade, at a press conference kicking off events leading up to the annual event.

Given the brutal weather Chicago’s been slammed with this year, those who braved the frigid temps on Thursday couldn’t help but look forward to the prospect of warmer times ahead. But a stiff breeze and bone-chilling temps can’t deter the tough folks of the 19th Ward, especially when it comes to their big event of the year.

This year’s parade is scheduled to step off at noon on March 16, at 103rd and Western.

McGourty, who is co-chairman of the parade committee, announced the grand marshal and honoree of the parade, which will be held in presumably more viewer-friendly weather. The Mulliganeers, a nonprofit group dedicated to helping families with children with birth defects, will be the parade’s grand marshal this year. The honoree will be County Fair Foods, 10800 S. Western, which is celebrating its 50th year in business and served as the backdrop on Thursday.

The parade, which began in 1979 when a group of 17 children marched around the 10900 blocks of South Talman and Washtenaw avenues, eventually grew too big for its own good and was canceled after a raucous 2009 parade. After a two-year hiatus, a scaled-down parade returned to Western Avenue in 2012. It won rave reviews that year and again in 2013 when 150,000 attended.

Organizers hope “the legacy continues for many generations to come,” McGourty said.

“We continue to celebrate faith, family and community as well as customs, music [and] dance that make up our Irish heritage and culture,” McGourty said. “We’re already calling bars on the North Side, colleges, reminded them why it doesn’t make sense to come down here. It got out of hand, but we’ve got that element under control.”


Twitter: @MetschSteve

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