Shay Clarke has to laugh when he thinks about how the St. Patrick's Day Parade in downtown St. Charles got its start 12 years ago.
Clarke, the evening manager at McNally's Traditional Irish Pub, finds it humorous because an employee at McNally's is given credit for having the idea for the parade and McNally's becoming the major sponsor.
"Back in the early days of it, Rosie (O'Connell) Martinez had the idea for the parade, and Rosie usually tells people what she wants and what they should do," Clarke said. "So she didn't go in and ask about it, she went in and said they had to do it."
That idea -- or demand, as Clarke tells it -- went to the St. Charles Chamber of Commerce, which has organized and planned the event with McNally's since its debut in 1999.
The 12th annual version of the celebration, always held the Saturday before the actual St. Patrick's Day, will unfold at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 12, with 85 entries ready to walk the Main Street route from Sixth Street on the west side to Fourth Avenue on the east side.
"It's not our biggest parade, but it's not our smallest," said Darlene Riebe, chairman of the chamber's parade committee. "Last year we had really lousy weather, and that always hurts your number of entries the next year. So if we have great weather this year, we'll see a lot more entries next year."
Attendees lined up along Main Street will notice a lot of military personnel and veterans front-and-center this year.
"The parade is dedicated to veterans and returning troops, so several VFW and American Legion members will be at the front of the parade," Riebe said.
In about the middle of the parade, several military re-enactors will be marching, representing different eras in United States military history. As in past years, the parade will offer an assortment of music with four bagpipe bands, the Classic Cavaliers drum and bugle corps, and the St. Charles East and North high school marching bands.
Clarke will be the emcee of the parade, identifying the entries from an area by the Municipal Center.
"It's remarkable how much the parade has grown since the first one," said Clarke, who also emceed that first parade but has not done it since because he worked in Dundee the past several years before returning to McNally's after its move to the First Street Plaza.
"It's great to be part of it again."
Riebe was excited about Ireland's national mixed martial arts team walking the parade route with the United States team, because both are competing as part of a show at the DuPage Expo Center on Saturday night.
"It will be so good for those athletes from Ireland to see us celebrating their country in our town," Riebe said.
Those attending the parade can stay warm inside at a special dance show from noon to 2 p.m. at the Arcada Theater featuring the various St. Charles dance studios.
"It's only $1 and this is the fourth year that Arcada owner Ron Onesti has donated the theater for this show," Riebe said. "I would think there is a good chance you'd see an Irish jig."
Next year will pose an interesting dilemma for organizers, Riebe said, because St. Patrick's Day 2012 will fall on a Saturday. "We'll still probably have our event the Saturday before anyway, because the thinking there is that downtown St. Charles has a lot of activity on St. Patrick's Day anyway, so this format brings people down there twice."