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Could the South Side Irish Parade Return?

By Chuck Sudo in News on Aug 2, 2011 2:00PM

Do folks in Beverly really want a return of this? (Photo by Ron Reason).

After two years without the large scale excess and drunken stupidity that accompanied the South Side Irish Parade, a small group of residents met at the Beverly Arts Center yesterday to discuss options to resurrect the parade on a larger scale while keeping a rein on the reasons people swarmed the neighborhood in the first place.

Leading the "public airing of feelings" was James "Skinny" Sheahan, one-time parade and special events chief for Richard M. Daley. Sheahan said he believes that the parade can be revived, so long as they curb the public drinking.

“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.”

When the South Side Irish Parade was last held in 2009, 54 people were arrested, nearly all of them for public intoxication. One was arrested for aggravated battery of a police officer. A dozen officers were assaulted and over 300,000 people crammed themselves into a three-mile stretch of South Western, all in order to be Irish for one day a year.

Scenes like the one we decided to run with the post and this video from flickr pool contributor Katherine of Chicago were the reason the South Side Irish Parade Committee voted 12-9 to table the event last year. That narrow vote didn't reflect the feelings of Beverly and Morgan Park homeowners, who were in favor of canceling the parade by a 10 to 1 margin.

The parade committee is considering proposals that would put a moratorium along the parade route prohibiting public drinking, shorter parade routes, earlier start times, and establishing checkpoints on side streets to check for open containers and prevent bus shuttles from taverns from entering the parade area.

We're not convinced this can happen. St. Patrick's Day, by design, is Amateur Hour. Even trying to tie the parade into a larger weekend festival means that resources will have to be allocated for the public intoxication that will happen. Parade committee spokesman Jim Davoren said they're open to bringing it back if they have a plan in place. If they can't, maybe Sheahan and his allies can try once again to try a grass roots version of the parade.