South Side Irish Parade A Go? Organizers Agree On Booze-Free Safety Plan (VIDEO)
Organizers working to bring Chicago's popular South Side Irish Parade back after a two-year hiatus are confident that their event will be a go after meeting with city officials Friday afternoon.
James "Skinny" Sheahan, one of the parade's main organizers, told the Chicago Sun-Times that a security plan has been agreed upon for the event, including a new, zero-tolerance policy toward alcohol along the route of the parade, which is tentatively scheduled for March 11. The plan also includes the hiring of more than 200 security guards, CBS Chicago reports -- reportedly more than any other parade held in the city.
"It was a great meeting. We’re all set to go," Sheahan told the Sun-Times.
Still, some obstacles do remain and time is running short. As the Chicago Tribune reports, the city has said it will only issue a permit to parade organizers after they prepay a bill covering the various city services that it will require. But that bill has not yet been presented to the parade committee.
And there is still the matter of how the committee will raise the funds to cover those costs. The group is aiming to raise some $200,000 to cover the city's tab, much of which is security-related. Joe Connelly, parade committee chair, told ABC Chicago they have already raised about three-quarters of that amount and aim to make up the rest at a Saturday pre-parade fundraising party.
The popular parade, which dates back to 1979 and is held in the city's Beverly neighborhood, was canceled by the city in 2009 after residents of the Southwest Side neighborhood complained about the hordes of drunk and unruly youths while police did not appreciate a spike in assaults against officers. That parade drew an estimated 300,000 revelers -- many of whom were intoxicated.
Weighing in on the parade, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said last month he hoped "people [would] remember a way to celebrate their heritage, celebrate and be proud of it in a way that's also respectful of the community and neighborhood," even as he later expressed doubts that organizers could keep the parade under control.