“Thankful for Catholic Elementary School Teachers,” representing 16 area schools, is Grand Marshal of the South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Leading the parade in the Grand Marshal unit on Sun., Mar. 15 will be principals, teachers and staff from Beverly/Morgan Park parishes, Christ the King School, St. Barnabas School, St. Cajetan School, St. John Fisher School and St. Walter. Other area schools marching as Grand Marshal are Most Holy Redeemer, Queen of Martyrs, St. Bede the Venerable, St. Benedict, St. Catherine of Alexandria, St. Christina, St. Ethelreda, St. Gerald, St. Germaine, St. Linus and St. Margaret of Scotland.
The South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, co-chaired this year by Jim Smith and Tim McSweeney, selected the Grand Marshal because they are thankful for all the hardworking individuals who dedicate their lives to educating Chicago’s Catholic school children.
“The South Side Irish Parade was founded on the themes of faith, family, community and Irish heritage and local Catholic elementary school teachers go that extra mile every day evoking the themes and inspiring our students,” Jim Smith said.
Serving as the 2020 Parade Honoree is the Tom Hopkins Foundation. The foundation was created by the children of the late Tom Hopkins, or “Papa Hops,” to assist families affected by cancer and to support youth athletics. The foundation keeps Hopkins’ spirit alive by hosting the Papa Hops softball tournament at Kennedy Park every summer. Over the past five years, the foundation has raised thousands of dollars to support local families affected by cancer as well as to support athletic departments and youth athletics at ten Catholic elementary schools.
The South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade steps off from 103rd and Western Avenue at noon on Sun., Mar. 15, marching south to 115th Street. Preceding the Parade at 11:30 a.m. is the Emerald Isle Mile race sponsored by Running Excels. Run details and sign-up are available at runningexcels.com.
The parade will be a celebration of Irish heritage, featuring bands, floats, dancers, 2020 South Side Irish Parade Queen Bailey O’Connell, families, dignitaries, vehicles and fire trucks. Also expected to appear are a few leprechauns, St. Patricks and Irish wolfhounds.
The event is family friendly, and has a strictly enforced zero tolerance for alcohol policy along the parade route. Pubs and restaurants along Western will be open for business and invite parade-goers to stop in and celebrate responsibly.
Steeped in family tradition and neighborhood pride, the South Side Irish Parade was started in 1979 by best friends, Beverly/Morgan Park residents George Hendry and Pat Coakley. Sitting around Hendry’s kitchen table, the friends fondly remembered their experiences at the original South Side Irish Parade on 79th Street. That parade moved downtown in 1960.
Hendry and Coakley wanted to create something for their children. With the help of their wives, they gathered 17 children from nearby blocks and on a rainy St. Patrick’s Day, Sat., Mar. 17, set them to march – kids only – around the 10900 blocks of Washtenaw and Talman in the first South Side Irish St. Pat’s Parade. One boy was dressed as St. Patrick, one girl was named parade queen, boy scouts carried the American flag and other pushed the “float” – a baby buggy decorated with shamrocks and the 26 county flags of Ireland.
The theme of the parade was “Bring Back St. Pat,” and neighbors stood on their porches, waving at the marchers.
The following year the gathering moved to the side streets around Kennedy Park, with 300 participants – including a bag piper! — marching, pulling wagons, riding bikes and walking dogs.
On Mar. 15, 1981, the parade marched down Western Avenue for the first time. The rest is local history, and you can read more on the parade website, southsideirishparade.com.