Can you have the South Side Irish parade without the stink of alcoholic beverages wafting through the air?
I’m sure there are some people who will be skeptical, and some may decide a new event would not be worth their time if the police are going to be expected to check everybody’s packages to see if they’re trying to slip a liquor bottle into the proceedings.
BUT I COULDN’T help but get a little kick out of the reports this week that people in the Beverly neighborhood want to resurrect the parade that for 31 years created a spectacle along Western Avenue near 103rd Street and for some people was the REAL St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
As opposed to the official city-wide parade that in recent years has been held along Columbus Drive (leading to quips about ol’ Italian explorer Cristobal becoming an honorary Irishman for the day).
The parade in Beverly ended after the 2009 version largely because the crowds coming in from all across the metropolitan area were so intense, and literally were bringing so much of their own liquor into the neighborhood.
The event had become a virtual Intoxication Fest. That last parade had 54 people get arrested – one of whom thought it somehow made sense to hit a police officer.
IF ANYTHING, THE event had become an embarrassment to the public perception of Beverly – which always used to like to think of itself as some sort of upper-crust neighborhood where people settled once their families had worked their way through immigrant status and had established themselves of sort.
The “lace curtain Irish,” so to speak, rather than those who had to work with their hands engaged in physical labor for a living.
Of course, Beverly also has become one of those neighborhoods on the fringe of the city limits where municipal workers who must live within the city boundaries choose to purchase homes.
So I’m sure much of this bad behavior from out-of-neighborhood people was probably occurring in the proximity of the actual homes of police officers and mid-ranking city officials.
PEOPLE WITH PULL used it to yank the plug on the parade.
And now, those people in the neighborhood with some pull are hoping they can resurrect an event that they can say is the parade – only on a smaller scale that might not attract so many booze-hounds.
That will be the trick.
Because the South Side Irish parade of old attracted people from all over who merely wanted to revel with the smell of cheap beer wafting through the air.
I LITERALLY RECALL one time I took a Metra Rock Island line train (the one from Joliet to LaSalle Street Station that makes several stops throughout the Beverly neighborhood) into Chicago on the day of South Side Irish.
It may have been a Sunday, but that train was packed with people bringing their own coolers loaded with liquor. Some of them were engaged in some serious drinking on the train – which means they likely were loaded before they ever set foot in Beverly.
I don’t even want to think of what they did once they got into the neighborhood, or how many local residents wound up having their lawns or alleys (if not both) urinated upon that day – although I’m sure those Lake View neighborhood residents who experience the same thing 81 days a year (whenever the Chicago Cubs play at home) would sympathize.
Reading the reports about a neighborhood meeting this week to discuss the potential future of South Side Irish, it seems local officials want to create something resembling an Irish festival along Western Avenue – with the parade itself being a small part the events.
THEY THINK THAT might encourage people who bring kids, whose presence might discourage all of those buffoons who are merely looking for a chance to get intoxicated in public (as though there aren’t enough other opportunities for them across the city).
In fact, James “Skinny” Sheahan (brother of the former county Sheriff and city alderman) went so far as to say this week, “there should be no alcohol during the parade, period.”
It’s a nice sentiment. But I’m not sure how practical it is going to be to expect police to inspect every single individual who decides to come to the event.
Because like I wrote earlier, this event in the past attracted some serious crowds. Unless you’re willing to divert a significant percentage of the Police Department to crowd control duty in that one neighborhood AND start running checkpoints to get to everybody – similar to if Barack Obama himself were to come to Beverly and appear in open.
I JUST DON’T know. Are there devices similar to metal detectors – ones that pick up the presence of filled booze bottles?
About the only alternative is to create an event on such a smaller-scale that it only attracts the residents of Beverly who can walk to Western Avenue.
A “private” parade? It may well please the locals to have this all to themselves. But it defeats the spirit of the old South Side Irish, which was to create an ethnic celebration for the masses to enjoy.