Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day will be a strange one this year, as organizers have called off the southside Irish parade and locals have replaced it with a pub crawl.
When Chicago officials decided to abandon the St. Patricks’ day southside parade they never anticipated the people of Chicago’s response.
George Kelleher, from Evergreen Park in Chicago, posted a Facebook event titled "I say we show up at the Southside Irish Parade anyways,” according to the Chicago Sun Times. More than 13,000 people have signed up to attend the pub crawl, while 7,600 have clicked “Maybe.”
Like many pub crawls, the event is not rigorously organized. So far it has no set itinerary or starting place. Revellers will instead gather at pubs in one of Chicago’s traditional pub crawl areas, called the “Western Walk” or the “Irish Death March.”
The South Side Irish parade committee announced its decision to cancel the parade last year, saying that, with 300,000 participants, the event had become too big.
“The sheer volume has become more than the neighborhood can reasonably accommodate,” the committee said. “With these numbers comes a collection of issues that strain both the host community and those individuals charged with effectively managing the crowds.”
The issues involved drunkenness and bad behavior, according to the Sun Times.
One local woman complained of this in a comment on Kelleher’s facebook petition. "On behalf of those who live in Beverly … If you don't have a party to attend please don't show up in the neighborhood, get blacked out by 10 a.m., puke, fight, go to the bathroom, or have sex on our front lawns or in our alleys or backyards," Sarah Cullina wrote.
"[The parade] was meant to be a neighborhood family-friendly parade to celebrate who we are, not a mini Mardi Gras. Thanks."
But potential criticism does not faze Kelleher. "For a lot of people the South Side Irish Parade was a bigger family tradition than Christmas," Kelleher said.
"Sure there were people who got wasted and threw up on peoples' lawns, but a good chunk of people have been doing this their whole life. I was curious to see what people thought of the idea, and the number of people responding started to grow quickly, and then it just blew up."
Local publicans are gearing up for a big, busy day. “It's exciting to see someone wants to keep the tradition going, more power to 'em,” a bar owner, Billy Guide, said. “I hope people act on it. "We're bracing for it and staffing for it like there will be a parade going down the street that day."
Others were less certain. "I doubt very much that number of people will actually show up," said Ald. Virginia Rugai. "But I've made police aware of it, and I think they will be prepared.
The parade organizers have set up another option for those who do not attend the pub crawl. Their website offers a family event for the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day.
Called “the South Side Irish Parade Family Fest,” it will be “a culturally-rich St. Patrick’s Day celebration.” It promises to be a gentler occasion.