#900: A Family-Friendly South Side Irish Parade

March 12th, 2018

“Union homes!” the dark-haired woman screamed into the megaphone. “They’re family homes is what they are! South Side Irish! And go White Sox, that’s the other thing! I see that guy in the jacket knows!”

And the children waved and tossed candy. And the candidates waved and tossed smiles. And the white-and-green poms of the floats flittered and fluttered and pamphleteers working the crowd feverishly pressed fliers advertising the dubious benefits of wads of dough you don’t actually want, but know you’ll end up getting in the end, like Krispy Kreme doughnuts or J.B. Pritzker.

If you were to seek a cable-knit sweater, flat cap, Guinness logo or Kelly green version of a local sports team’s paraphernalia in Chicago on Sunday, I know where you could have found it. And I’m wearing the sports team thing right now.

Sunday was the South Side Irish Parade, the former drunken spree of Celtomania and green-hued alley pukes rebooted as a zero-tolerance family-friendly spectacle of step dancers, pipers and politicians showing they’re of the people.

Local unions and more high schools than I thought existed in the Midwest blared music and love for the people of Beverly as the parade jaunted its way between 103rd and 115th on Western. St. Patrick walked waving down the street next to an Uncle Sam as three bike cops and a ruddy-nosed senior with a tartan cap and a wolfhound walked across the foreground because sometimes life captures a moment to a T.

It was wonderful. Full-bore wonderful. Kids loved it, we got a great spot to put up folding chairs along the parade route and I’ve got fewer aches in my head and gravel shards in my hand than the last time I attended this particular affair.

I like local festivals, fairs and parades because they’re like costume parties where regions come dressed as themselves. Not themselves themselves, but a better themselves. A nicer themselves. A fun, wholesome, tradition-laden but still funky and individualistic version of themselves. It’s a sneak peek into how these places actually see themselves, or would like to.

North Side neighborhoods full of sports bars have hipness-drenched craft fairs, giving a hint they still see an artsy enclave when they look in the mirror. Downtown, the broken heart of a fractured and divided city, forges an image of unity, peace and everyone coming together for a joyous family meal, or at least a little Taste.

And Beverly, dear Beverly, sees itself as a place that celebrates family, education, church, politics, police and cable-knit sweaters.

Or would like to.

I attended a South Side Irish Parade before, did a lot of the thing it was famous for. And I couldn’t tell you right now which is the real Beverly — the boozer or the family haven.

The children laughing and running and the ones shyly giving out candy from the parade line were there, real, open and honest. The young men wandering from bar to bar with the slight annoyed look of the overhyped and underwhelmed were real too. They had been told of more party than existed, but were trying to make up the difference themselves. Real.

The cop getting Italian beef hot and dipped after the crowd dispersed was real. The mom cop who hugged her kid and put him in his dad’s lap for a squad car ride to the float he’d wave from was real.

The people who wore less charming but equally authentic sigils of Chicago — the sneers, the divided wealth, the joy of a self-satisfied enclave and my North Side home is as enclavey as they get — we were there too. The barricades that held in the parade line were unhooked after the show by low-level DUIs and reckless drivers sentenced to the SWAP program. Boys jeered at floats from rival schools and an overheard snippet revealed at least one teen girl thought the Marist High School girls softball team was “a bunch of bitches.”

It was life in all its beauty and ugliness. They weren’t divided equal — it was a wonderful day, the ratio of charm to murk dialed brightly toward the former.

Under a yellow sun and a flat cap, a community took a chance to dress as itself, or at least the self it wanted to be.

Meet a former Beverly hat shop (now downtown)

And a mainstay bookshop (moved since the story, but still in Beverly)

More on the divides heading south to north

And a St. Pat’s story from the site’s early days

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You are currently reading #900: A Family-Friendly South Side Irish Parade by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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