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Opposing Viewpoints: South Side Irish Parade

The 30-year Chicago tradition began as a whimsical walk in the city but turned into a massive street party filled with drunken brawlers, underage drinkers, massive crowds and multiple arrests. These factors led to the cancellation of the South Side Irish parade in 2009. Credit:

Chicago needed change, one parade is enough

By: Dominic Schwab, Staff Reporter

Does Chicago really need two St. Patrick’s Day parades?  I don’t think so, especially when one takes into account the history of the parades and the reasons given for the South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade cancellation.

In March 2009, the South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee announced that they would no longer hold the annual South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  Many people, both residents of the South Side and elsewhere, were shocked and upset by the news.  This particular parade, which had taken place each year alongside the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown Chicago, had been held for just over thirty years.

The South Side of Chicago has had deep Irish roots because many of the Irish immigrants who moved to Chicago throughout the past have settled in the Southern portion of the city.  Naturally, those living on the South Side of Chicago wished to celebrate their past, their culture.  It was not until the early 1950s, however, that a parade celebrating Irish culture on or around St. Patrick’s Day began.  This parade was called the Southtown Parade.

The Southtown Parade was moved by Mayor Richard J. Daley in 1955 away from the South Side of Chicago so that the parade would move through the heart of downtown Chicago.  In addition to the moving of that parade, it was renamed the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  The actual Southtown Parade ended in 1960.

On March 17, 1979, St. Patrick’s Day, George Hendry and Pat Coakley, friends and the original creators of what many know today as the South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade, along with their wives, gathered 17 children in the hopes of starting a new St. Patrick’s Day parade that would exist specifically for the residents of Chicago’s South Side.

Over the next few years, the South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade developed into a longstanding tradition.  By 1980, the South Side parade had gained so much popularity that the event was moved so as to include more participants.  And when the event was canceled just after St. Patrick’s Day in 2009, the South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade had lasted for a total of thirty-one years.

Now, I understand that many people think fondly of the South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade and are still upset by the cancellation of the annual event.  But when viewed through the lens of history, continual change has always been a factor.  Within five years of the parade’s start, the event was relocated from the South Side to downtown.  Once the specific South Side parade was created, it was also moved in order to accommodate more people.  Thus, the parade has, since its genesis, been quite popular, which must be and has been acknowledged.  Therefore, in order to include the maximum amount of people in the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration, moving the parade to downtown was the right choice.

Also, the South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee noted that they were simply unable to adequately manage the crowd.  When people celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, they truly know how to celebrate—if you catch my drift.  So it is not surprising that the committee for the South Side parade found it problematic to manage the people.  The South Side simply does not have the resources to monitor everyone and the committee thought it would be in everyone’s best interests and safety to discontinue the event.

Heartbreaking though it is, those are the facts.  However, South Siders need not despair because there is another parade that takes place every year in downtown Chicago, the aforementioned St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  Furthermore, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade is an extension of the original South Side parade.

So regardless of where the parade takes place, there will be a St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Chicago where many people will be able to meet safely and celebrate their past and culture.



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