Sandy Byrnes throws out candy to kids on the side on Saturday, March 5, 2022, during the Forest Park St. Patrick's Day Parade on Madison Street in downtown Forest Park, Ill. | ALEX ROGALS/Staff Photographer

Most participants and those watching it along the street gave the parade a thumbs up.

“The parade was awesome!” said Sal Stella. “The biggest one I’ve been a part of in 25 years. The huge crowd enjoying themselves was the best part.”

Police Chief Ken Gross confirmed, “It was one of the largest crowds I have seen in my nearly 22 years in Forest Park.”

Chamber of Commerce Director Laurie Kokenes Crowd estimated the crowd at 10,000.

“This was by far the largest attendance we’ve ever had for the parade,” Kokenes said. “It’s really an amazing feeling to see the throngs of people all along Madison Street. Lots of families, thousands of smiling faces and everyone having a good time.

Forest Park became a parking lot by the time the parade started at 1 p.m. with every parking space on the side streets filled north of Madison to Randolph and south to Jackson. 

Monika Zamarlik, who lives just half a block from Madison Street, said, “It was great to have the parade back. It was a breath of fresh air!”

Speaking of fresh air, the beautiful weather played a big part in making the event a success. 

“Being outside,” said Stella, “without a jacket was a relief from the winter we’ve had. Not wearing a mask was refreshing and finally gave me a sense of normalcy.”

Zamarlik added, “It felt strange to not have a mask on since we had to have one for so long.”

It was a new experience for Terry Crowley. “Being new to the area this is the first time I have seen all the bars and restaurants full of people; it was great to feel that energy.” 

Following the honor guard were fire engines from Forest Park, Berwyn, River Forest, Oak Park and Stickney, together with police squad cars from 11 villages all with lights flashing and sirens blaring. The kids loved it.

Many adults in the parade seemed to be reverting to childhood. Firefighters, for example, had big grins on their faces as they blasted away on their sirens.

By and large, the parade was homemade. It featured two garbage trucks, two school buses and many SUVs festooned with hand-written posters promoting their nonprofit or a candidate running for office. The very last unit was a trailer pulled by a pickup truck with a rock band called Detta Dean and the Vaccinators, whose amps were powered by a portable generator.

Maybe half of the people on the route were wearing green. It was a day on which everyone seemed happy to identify as Irish. 

A few of the units were flying Ukrainian flags, a simple acknowledgement of the suffering going on 5,046 miles away.

When asked if the police had to deal with any “incidents,” Gross answered simply, “None.”