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Emerald Isle Mile Makes a Final Push 

By Talie Leeb 

In the morning hours before the South Side Irish Parade’s official noon start it’s not much of a surprise to see spectators arriving to the parade route. Drawing 200,000+ visitors from the city and beyond each year, showing up early is the way to go if you want to scope out the best place to set up lawn chairs and coolers and settle in to wait for the festivities to begin.  

But not everyone is there to sit back and relaxIn recent years early comers have been greeted by the sight of 100-odd runners, sprinting down the street as they compete in the Emerald Isle Mile.   

The one-mile race began in 2012, coinciding with the Parade’s return from a two-year hiatus. The run was half fundraiser, half experiment. It was James “Skinny” Sheahan, of “Skinny & Houli” South Side Irish radio fame, who suggested to Running Excel’s owner Beverly Lynch that a pre-parade run might be an exciting way to kick off parade festivities while raising a little money for charity. Parade organizers said it sounded like a great way to add a family-friendly activity to the parade, and an addition to the tradition was born.  

For the last eight years spectators have cheered on the runners who are usually decked out in costumes or head to toe green, as they race down Western, taking off from 104th Street and running a half mile to 108th Street before turning and heading to the finish outside Running Excels.   

Over the years the miler has registered about 100 to 120 participants each year. Lynch says it’s been difficult to attract more racers to an early morning sprint;  active track athletes from local high schools aren’t allowed to run in extra-curricular races, and a lot of the 21+ crowd would rather start celebrating the holiday early instead of lacing up their running shoes. So, Lynch and the Parade organizers decided that 2020 will be the final Emerald Isle Mile.  

It’s goodbye for now, but maybe not foreverLynch says she’s open to the idea of bringing the race back if enough people miss it, “maybe in five years, or for a special anniversary, we’ll do it again and see how it goes”. After all, she says, one of her favorite things about the neighborhood is how active it is, and if there’s anywhere for a celebratory pre-St. Patrick’s event to make its home, it’s Beverly/Morgan Park.   

The Emerald Isle Mile registrants receive a free tee-shirt. Sign up at Running Excels, 10328 S. Western, or online at www.runningexcels.com. 

South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade

The 40th Annual South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade will step off at noon on Sun., Mar. 11, marching down Western Avenue from 103rd Street to 115th Street. The South Side Irish Parade has grown into the largest community-based St. Patrick’s Day Parade outside of Ireland.

This year’s parade will feature 100 entries including bagpipe and marching bands and Irish dance schools.

Special Olympics Chicago will serve as Grand Marshal. Special Olympics Chicago is one of the largest programs in the country offering training and competition for more than 7,500 athletes in 22 sports throughout the year. The organization provides opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendships with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

Amyloidosis Support Groups and the Martin McGarry family will be the 2018 Parade Honoree. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to the support, education and empowerment of Amyloidosis patients, caregivers and former caregivers. Beverly/Morgan Park resident Martin McGarry recently lost a lengthy battle with Amyloidosis. His spirit and dedication to his community will be honored during the parade.

The 2018 South Side Irish Parade Queen is Colleen Krahn of Mount Greenwood. She is an alumna of Queen of Martyrs School, Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School and St. Ambrose University, and currently works as a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines.

Krahn was one of nine candidates who took part in the selection process held during the South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Pre-Parade fundraising party in February. She will be prominently featured in the South Side Irish Parade and will also ride in the downtown Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Krahn will also receive sponsorship from the South Side Irish Parade Committee to compete in the Chicago Rose of Tralee Selection in April at Ridge Country Club.

The Emerald Isle Mile presented by Running Excels will take place prior to the parade. The run begins at 11:30 a.m. at 104th and Western Avenue and runs the parade route ending at 112th Street. For information and registration, visit the store at 10328 S. Western or the website at www.runningexcels.com.

The parade is operated by the South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit organization, where more than 100 volunteers work year round to ensure this family-friendly celebration continues for future generations. The South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee is dedicated to ensuring a safe, family-friendly celebration of Irish heritage and culture. The volunteer committee works with the City of Chicago, local community organizations, schools and neighbors to present a family-friendly annual march down Western Avenue.

Events that lead up to the parade include the South Side Irish Parade Film Fest Sat., Mar. 3 at the Beverly Art Center, 2407 W. 111th St.  The fest will feature an afternoon matinee, an evening feature film and film shorts, plus receptions. Visit www.beverlyartcenter.org for tickets.

The parade’s organizing committee will honor their Grand Marshall by making a march of their own, into frigid Lake Michigan for the Special Olympics Chicago’s annual Polar Plunge on Sun., Mar. 4 at North Avenue Beach. To join the “South Side Irish Pats On Parade” team.

For more information on the parade or parade events, visit southsideirishparade.org.