The South Side Irish Parade Refuses To Go Away
By aaroncynic in News on Jan 30, 2010 5:15PM
Photo by Kate Gardiner
If one believes in the accuracy of Facebook guest lists, over 13,000 people could potentially show up, though we don’t believe that number is likely. The amount of interest though, has spurred some people into hoping to turn the unofficial gathering into the world’s largest pub crawl. Unfortunately for prospective pub crawlers, Facebook event creator George Kelleher said in an interview with the Sun Times he hasn’t “had the time to get that effort going since it takes six to eight weeks to get registered with the Guinness Book people.”
Needless to say, residents that felt relieved after the parade's demise aren't terribly excited about a potential rerun of the previous years. In the parade's final year, it's estimated that over 300,000 people stumbled their way down Western Avenue from 111th to 99th street and everywhere in between. We spoke with TJ, a long time parade attendee who had family in the neighborhood and had been going since childhood, but stopped attending after he moved to the area four years ago.
Chicagoist: What are the differences between the parade when you were a kid and the parade as it evolved?
TJ: You can tell that in the last 4-5 years it has gotten so big and almost out of control. To sum it up, the parade used to be just that, a parade, a family tradition and an expression of some sort of South Side Irish pride. It turned into a Sox fan Mardi Gras, which I suppose is cool when you don't live in the neighborhood and are 20 years old, but as a community member it is absolutely ridiculous.
C: How did you feel when you found out it would be the last year?
TJ: I had known it was on the table so it did not surprise me. I thought I would be more angry but at first secretly I was happy, then I was open about my joy. Shit got out of control and was bad for the neighborhood. The people on the committee busted their ass to make this thing happen every year and put themselves at risk (liability issues and the like). I do not blame them one bit for their decision. The 12-hour event was having lasting effects on our community (positive for businesses, but mostly negative for everyone else) and in the end was not worth it.
C: Do you think people from the Facebook group will actually show up?
TJ: What the hell else are they going to do that Sunday? I knew people would still have parties (myself included) and hit the bars, but I did not think there would be this massive migration. Think of it this way, when you see a flock Canadian Geese from afar you think it is cool and part of nature, all serene and majestic. But when they land on your lawn, shit all over it, and try to attack you and your loved ones, you want to throw a brick at them. These people are my Canadian Geese.
C: There's been some debate as to who this parade really belongs to. With the crowd growing hugely over the past 5 years - do you feel that it left the hands of the neighborhood and became something that belonged to the larger Chicago public? At what point does it become encroachment on the neighborhood? Should it have been limited to residents and their friends/family, or perhaps residents and former residents, or perhaps even all of those plus folks from the immediate surrounding area? Basically, should a line have been drawn?
TJ: I get all that and obviously the thing was going to grow. But it stopped being about the South Side Irish and became a party where people were allowed to drink on the streets and act like assholes. This parade took something I once loved and turned it into a one day spring break for the collar counties. But that is the thing, you cannot draw a line, it's not right. No one has a right to say my 13 cousins and their friends can hang out but since you live in Tinley Park you cannot be here. It just got too big, it is as simple as that and there was no way to keep EVERYONE safe. At the end of the day if you cannot celebrate without trying to fight cops, you are an asshole.
From a safety stand point I honestly hope people do not show up. There will not be a lot of police around and if people get out of hand, it will get ugly. I can assure you of this though, I will be drinking that and if you come by my garage I may shoot you with my blowgun or just have one of my friends talk your ear off and bum your smokes all night.