Attendees shake hands with a "leprechaun" during the annual Forest Park St. Patrick's Day Parade on Madison Street through downtown Forest Park. | Alexa Rogals/Staff Photographer

Like many of the events sponsored by the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade this Saturday is intended to be good for both the community and for business.

Laurie Kokenes, director of the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce, which is sponsoring the St. Patrick’s Day Parade this Saturday, said that up to 7,000 spectators will be lining Madison Street on Saturday when the parade kicks off at 1 p.m. from Van Buren Street.

An annual harbinger of spring in this town, the parade will feature in the neighborhood of 60 units, including the following:
■ Proviso East High School Marching Band
■ Police and Fire Dept. units with sirens wailing
■ Doonaree Pipe Band
■ Medina Roaring 57’s
■ Children’s Dentistry “tooth car”
■ Band of Brothers Pipe Band
■ Local Politicians

“Everyone loves a parade,” said Kokenes, pointing out that the big show is free to the thousands of people who will be lining the street.

The Chamber’s mission statement includes, “enhancing the local business environment and quality of life in our community and promoting Forest Park as a great place to live, work, shop, dine & play.”

Mike Mohr (Sr. and Jr.) aren’t lead sponsors for the event because they get a lot of business by doing so, but because they are genuinely interested in the welfare of the community in which they do business.

“We are happy to be a parade sponsor,” said Michael H. Mohr, president of Mohr Oil, “and as we are one of Forest Park’s oldest businesses, we are proud to support any type of function that brings our community together.”

The same is true for another title sponsor, Iron Workers, Local 1.

The Proviso East band, does not charge the Chamber anything.

“They participate,” Kokenes explained, “because they want to be part of the community.”

The parade, of course, is good for the taverns lining Madison, providing many options in the area for folks looking for an excuse to have a cold one … or two … and literally thousands of people will be standing at their doorsteps.

Marty Sorice, who owns multiple bars in town, reported, “It is the best day of the year for Angelo’s and Shortstop. It is a good day for Blueberry and Circle, but it hasn’t affected Carole’s and Pioneer much at all. St. Patty’s Parade primarily helps Madison Street.

“But, it’s more than the increased revenue,” Sorice added. “It’s knowing that we are an integral part of making a fun event occur. My staff always looks forward to it so much.”

The same is true for the eateries along the parade route.

But even though sales may not increase for some businesses on that day, Kokenes explained, events like the parade, the Wine Walk (April 23 this year) and the Holiday Walk (in December) show off many of the unique shops on Madison with the hope that spectators will notice them and return on another day.

“Special events,” Kokenes explained, “bring anywhere from several hundred to thousands of people to Downtown Forest Park. Positive unique events keep Forest Park’s name at the forefront, creates positive press, drives traffic to our downtown business district and all in all allow visitors to see all that Forest Park has to offer. They bring new folks to the area and keeps them coming back.”

The Chamber is funded approximately 50% from event revenue and 50% from membership dues. It invests a lot of money on the parade to make it a quality event. The organization pays for the three Medinah units — Mini Shoppers, Roaring 57’s and Motor Corps — as well as two pipe bands (with Burke Beverage) and a donation to Toys for Tots.

Income from the event comes from sponsorships and entry fees:
■ Chamber member business $65
■ Non-member business $120
■ Non-Profit/Political $45
■ Residents/Individuals $30
■ Large groups of residents/individuals $45

Kokenes added, “We’re selling parade merchandise, too (

Aware that Forest Parkers may be experiencing COVID fatigue, Kokenes said, “Lots of regular folks, businesses and political candidates are excited to get out and celebrate something … and everyone loves a parade!”

St. Patrick’s Day Parade will be held on March 5, beginning at 1 p.m. on Madison Street, heading east from Van Buren.