Family and Tradition on Display at South Side Irish Parade
The South Side Irish Parade returns to its family roots while honoring local first responders.
The idea of family seems to pop up again and again at the South Side Irish Parade: full floats emblazoned with the names of recognizable Beverly clans, children on their parents' shoulders craning their necks for a better view and the outpouring of support shown to the families of Fire Capt. Herbie Johnson, Firefighter Walter Patmon, Jr., and Police Officer Michael Flisk.
It was a solemn way to start a parade, but a reminder that this community takes care of its own.
This was the second year back for the parade after a brief hiatus. The focus last year was on reestablishing the event as family-focused and devoid of rowdy crowds that grew in years past.
"A lot of it is getting the message out that we are serious about it and that we won't tolerate it," said parade co-chair Kevin Coakley on their approach to security measures.
Private security officers were hired and checkpoints were set up to make the parade an alcohol free event. No incidents were reported during the course of the parade, according to the committee.
With the extra security came extra costs and local businesses and individual community members rose to the occasion.
"It's a year long endeavor to raise the money to do it and without the help of especially the businesses we couldn't do this," Coakley said.
While the parade might unite Beverly, Morgan Park and Mount Greenwood, it also serves as a showcase for the neighborhoods to the rest of the city.
"This is a great opportunity to bring people in from all around the city," said committee member Jim “Skinny” Sheahan. "But the important thing is that this parade is about kids, and parents and grandparents."
The parade committee and 22nd District Commander James Gibson estimated that about 125,000 people turned out for the parade, related festivities and pre-parade events. It's a big number for something that started in 1979 with a few local families from the 10900 blocks of Washtenaw and Talman.
Coakley's father Pat and his friend George Hendry were the originators of the parade and generations later its still going strong.
"I walked in every one of them and walked around the block in 1979," Coakley said. "It's nice to see that now my son gets to run down Western and all my brother's kids. A lot of the other wee folks come back and enjoy the day."
After the parade, Irish flags hang outside many neighborhood homes and the buzz of parties hummed away inside.
"If we don't have the backing of the community we can't do it," Coakley said. "And we have it."