The green glitterati of spectators donned their best Leprechaun inspired ensembles Saturday, making the onlookers themselves as much a part of the festivities as the participants in the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
With Dr. Seuss-like hats, beads, shamrocks, sweaters and shoes, revelers filled the rooftop of Doc Ryan’s while a stocky middle-aged man hung around the bar’s front entrance wearing a kilt. Even a terrier pup made quite an impression with his rather creative Irish shirt and apropos name.
“Boston is 3 years old,” Roberta Doyle said of her Boston terrier. “We put some shamrocks on him and a ‘sniff me, I’m Irish’ shirt. This is our first time at the parade and it has been a lot of fun.”
Kicking off at 1 p.m. and emceed by Village Administrator Mike Sturino along with Ireland native and Forest Park resident Geraldine Healy, the parade lineup included 55 entrants offering an array of floats, music, costumes, and candy to the festive throng of onlookers.
“We have been blessed because every St. Patrick’s Day – no matter what the weather is like – it ends up always being a great parade,” Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone, who has been involved in every celebration since 1995, said. “Forest Park has always been noted for coming together. Whether it’s our business organizations and the businesses themselves, they do come together as team. People love this parade so they always come out. I am proud that the folks take the time to come out, and of course, I think they end up in the bars after the parade.”
St. Patrick’s Day is officially celebrated on March 17.
Some highlights of the day included the Medinah Shriners driving their mini chopper motorcycles and cars, the Proviso East High School marching band, and the World Famous Lawn Rangers performing their kitschy broomsticks and lawnmowers dance routine.
Sponsored by ComEd, the parade also featured several Madison Street businesses.
“I thought the Shriners were pretty cool,” Joe Tremback, 25, said. “When the marching band came by, you kind of felt the music go through you. And the coolest thing was when the Irish dancers did their little jig.”
After the parade concluded around 2 p.m., hundreds of people kept the party going in the bars, including parade participants the Glengael Bagpipes, who pumped some Celtic sounds into the atmosphere. The popular four person band, per tradition, went bar to bar playing a song inside each watering hole.
“We were the first bagpipe band [here], and we have done it every year since the first parade,” said band manager Ron Kotlicky. “Everybody gets into this parade. It’s a lot more fun for us as participants when people are happy to have you. A big crowd like this all along the parade route makes it fun.”
Playing before a packed room at the Shortstop Lounge, one of many stops for Glengael, the bagpipe quartet played inspired versions of “Rowan Tree” and “High Road to Gairloch.”
“When you’re going in and out of bars and you’re having a few beers, you tend to play simpler tunes,” added Kotlicky with a laugh. “After you have had a few beers, sometimes you forget.”