Throughout February, Forest Parkers can be found cruising down the Eisenhower listening to the sounds of bagpipes in their car stereos in anticipation of the Chamber of Commerce’s 11th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Well … maybe the village doesn’t get quite that excited as the parade approaches, but it has certainly become a tradition that lets locals know that winter is nearing an end and the numerous Madison festivities and events that follow the parade are on their way.

While many have surely already marked the date of the parade, March 4, on their calendar, Laurie Kokenes, director of the Chamber, is hoping that local families and businesses will bring their participation to the next level by actually entering the parade, rather than just attending.

For the first time, residents and businesses alike will have the opportunity to compete for prizes for both “most creative” and “most humorous” entry in the parade, which will run down Madison Street from Van Buren Street on the west to Elgin Avenue on the east. The contest will be judged by the Chamber Parade Committee.

Afterward, of course, attendees from near and far are invited to stick around and enjoy Madison Street’s wide variety of shopping and dining destinations (perhaps some drinking as well”responsibly, of course), many of which will be offering special sales and incentives in honor of the parade.

As usual, the Glen Gael Pipe Band, sponsored by beer distributor Burke Beverage, will play in the parade and visit Madison Street restaurants and taverns throughout the afternoon.

The award-winning Proviso East marching band will also be performing in the parade.

In addition, the parade will include horse-and-buggies, antique cars and motorcycles, fire and police vehicles and the Fire Department Honor Guard, as well as clowns and magic carpets from the Medinah Motor Corp.

Sponsors include the Village of Forest Park, Forest Park National Bank and Trust Co., the Oak Park Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, Burke Beverage and the Forest Park Liquor Association.

Costs to enter the parade are $30 for Chamber member businesses, $60 for non-member businesses, $20 for family entries, $50 for family floats, $10 for classic car entries, and $20 for non-profit entries.

The parade, which will begin at 1 p.m. and lasts about an hour, typically draws a crowd of over 1,000. It precedes other major parades in Chicago and Elmhurst, allowing area residents to enjoy two consecutive weekends of St. Patrick’s Day fun.

Call the Chamber of Commerce at 366-2543 for more information or to enter the parade and contest. Participants should arrive by noon to register and will be notified of their position when they arrive.