The South Side Irish Parade
While it's true that this weekend boasts two St. Patrick's Day parades, one on the north side and one on the south, experienced St. Patrick's Day celebrants know that the only one worth mentioning is that of the parade taking place in the neighborhood of Beverly.
We at Chicagoist have been accused of having a north side-bias, but when it comes to where one should celebrate St. Patrick's Day, the south side rules and we wonder why the north side even bothers. The 27th annual South Side Irish Parade guarantees to be as it always has: the more interesting, more authentic, more fun celebration of Irish heritage.
This isn't an exaggeration by any stretch of the imagination. For as much as this parade is rumored to be one drunken party -- as is often the case with a small group of jackasses who ruin it for everyone -- it began as a community parade for kids, organized by a neighborhood parish. To this day it remains the largest community parade celebrating St. Patrick's Day in the nation.
Kicking off at noon on Sunday, the parade starts off at 103rd Street and Western Avenue and moves south to 115th Street. Some of Chicagoist have been attending this parade since they were wee, so here is some advice for the north siders, from the seasoned of us, those for whom this parade has been a mainstay longer than just the year we graduated college and moved to the city.
1) Yes, it is somewhat of a drunken party. The sad truth is that, like anything with the best of intentions, there are always a few people who will take an opportunity to get drunk and puke on a public thoroughfare as though it were their right. While you're still going to find alcohol, the EAST side of Western avenue is dry, which means you're less likely to run into a drunk. More families congregate on this side of the street, and it's usually a little quieter.
2) Leave your house early. For some north siders, life ends at Roosevelt Road, and no time is that fact ever more clear than the first time they attend the parade. There is traffic on your way to the south side and the more time you allow yourself to find parking and a spot along the route the better. If you show up just as the parade starts, expect to park near Vincennes Avenue.
OK. Maybe not that far away, but it will feel like it. You may want to look into taking the train. You'll still have to hoof it, but it's just a good stretch of the legs and you won't have to worry about parking.
3) Respect the neighborhood. This is, again, a community parade and while the south siders welcome everyone with open arms to their neck of the woods, there's no need to be tearing through the yard party off of 106th like a banshee just because it seems like the thing to do. It's not.
4) Open Liquor is still illegal on the south side. Here's the thing, keeping in mind Chicagoist goes on the record with not being proponents of open alcohol on the street: Every year people line the streets with their plastic cups to, most likely, keep warm by drinking hot chocolate. Most times, people can drink their hot chocolate and enjoy themselves. Other times, all of that sugar can go a parade goer's head, making them a target for a ticket from a friendly and just-doing-his-job Chicago police officer.
Chicagoist says, "Behave while drinking your hot chocolate. Drink it in a bar or a residence."
The South Side Irish Parade is a grand time, and a long-standing tradition for many families in Chicago. It's entirely possible to enjoy the parade, celebrate Ireland, and not feel as though you've set back north and south side relations any further.
Images from South Side Irish Parade Web site.