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Daley leads last St. Patrick’s Day parade as mayor

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade hadn’t even stepped off, but Mayor Daley was already marking the end of an era.

It would be the last time Daley — of Irish ancestry — would walk the downtown parade route near Chicago’s lakefront as the city’s chief executive.

“It is very emotional, when you think 22 years as mayor attending all the various parades and celebrations of the city,” the outgoing mayor told reporters before the 56th annual parade started at noon.

Of course, when Daley took office, the parades happened on St. Patrick’s Day proper, down Dearborn Street.

Daley, whose own roots trace back to the city of Dungarvan, Ireland, between Cork and Dublin, recalled walking in Chicago parades with his father, the late Richard J. Daley. Next year when he returns to the celebration, it’ll be on the Daley family float that for years has participated in the parade in memory of his parents, his son Kevin, and other extended family who have passed.

On Saturday, many of Daley’s family joined in the trip down Columbus Drive from Balbo to Monroe, including his wife, Maggie Daley, son Patrick, his brother John, a Cook County board commissioner, and his nephew, Robert Vanecko.

The crowd of thousands of spectators was fairly calm as the six-term mayor passed by — tossing out here and there a “Good job, Rich,” or a “You did good.”

Daley’s successor — mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel — was conspicuously absent from the event, typically a who’s who of state and local politicians. Spokesman Ben LaBolt said he was in Washington, D.C., with family this weekend.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who was in attendance, praised the Daley family, and the mayor in particular, for their public service. And asked whether Daley’s exit dims the spotlight on the Chicago-Irish connection, Durbin didn’t miss a beat.

“My guess is when somebody traces back . . . they may find Rahm Emanuel has a bit of Irish ancestry,” Durbin said.

Contributing: Tina Sfondeles

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