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Opposing Viewpoints: South Side Irish Parade

Take away parade, take away tradition

By: Stacy Portilla, Contributing Reporter

Although I have only lived here for four years, I’ve come to realize the important dates here in Chicago. March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, is one of them. When a Chicagoan brings up St. Patrick’s Day, most people think of the South Side Irish Parade. Two years ago on St. Patrick’s Day, I headed down to the South Side to report on what the holiday would be like without the traditional parade and festivities that the people of Chicago had grown accustomed to. Although there was no parade, they had set up a day of family festivities including crafts for children, booths, and live music. Although Irish Fest was a big hit for small children, it lacked interest for adults. Sure there was beer and corned beef and cabbage, but compared to the South Side Parade, Irish Fest appeared to be a disappointment. From the people I talked to, I concluded that while people were impressed with Irish Fest, most people were still upset that the parade, once a South Side tradition, was dead. Sure, there is still Unofficial at University of Illinois and the downtown parade, but when people think of St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago, the South Side Parade comes out on top.

My hometown of St. Louis has the second biggest Mardi Gras parade in the United States. We are no stranger to parades, parties, and festivals. Every year for St. Patrick’s Day, they too put on a parade. As someone who celebrates every holiday to the fullest, I understand that a large group of people mixed with a large amount of alcohol is nothing short of a recipe for disaster. Parades can be a hassle to say the least. I am aware that closed streets create additional traffic while decorations liter the area for weeks. However, if the city chooses to have a parade, they should also be prepared to deal with the before, during and after effects of the event.

I also understand that some people want to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with their family. They should be allowed to do so safely, without being bombarded by stumbling drunks. I’m assuming that’s why they have a family friendly parade downtown in the daytime, a week before St. Patrick’s Day. But those who don’t have children, or want a night out without their children, should have the opportunity to celebrate in whatever way they see fit. After all, not every holiday is meant to be spent together. Like most other people, I consider Christmas, Thanksgiving and birthdays to be family holidays. I think that most people would agree that Mardi Gras, Cinco de Mayo and other similar holidays are geared more towards adults.

In my opinion, taking the South Side Parade away from Chicago is like taking Mardi Gras away from New Orleans. Sure, the parade is a huge production that inevitably leads to arrests, property damage and injuries, but the people who make decisions that result in these outcomes should not be the only people considered when deciding if the parade and festivities should be shut down for good.

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