Leprechauns and a local Irishman will lead the way during the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Naperville as roughly 100 units of Celtic spirit march through the city's downtown streets.
Naperville park board Vice President Mike Reilly will lead the parade at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 15, as its grand marshal, and he said he'll bring with him some lucky green fellows who are always on a quest to find a pot of gold.
If you goIrish MassWhen: 7 p.m. Thursday, March 13, with a musical prelude at 6:30 p.m.
Where: St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, 1500 Brookdale Road, Naperville
St. Paddy's Day 5KWhen: 8 a.m. Saturday, March 15
Where: Starts and ends at Centennial Beach, 500 W. Jackson Ave., Naperville
St. Patrick's Day ParadeWhen: 10 a.m. Saturday, March 15
Where: Starts at Naperville North High School, 899 N. Mill St., travels south on Mill, east on Jefferson Avenue, south on Main Street and west on Water Street to Naperville municipal center, 400 S. Eagle St.
"I'm going to try to do something a little cute and try to get some leprechauns to march with me in the parade," Reilly said.
The leprechauns actually will be Naperville-area kids Reilly recruits to join the festivities, which start at Naperville North High School, 899 N. Mill St., and end at the municipal center, 400 S. Eagle St.
Parade Queen Nellie Rose Barry, bands, bagpipers, youth groups, volunteer organizations, businesses and even a few politicians have signed up to march, said Chuck Corrigan, president of West Suburban Irish, which organizes the parade in honor of the area's residents of Irish descent.
"It's a good number of people and they are all proud of being Irish," Corrigan said. "And, of course, everyone is Irish on parade day if they'd like to be."
Aside from celebrating Irish culture, the parade typically ushers in the start of spring, Corrigan said. Parade day weather in recent years has alternated from cold and windy to hot and sunny, then back to chilly and rainy again.
"This year, 30 is going to be the new 50," Corrigan said. "If it's 30 and sunny, I expect a big crowd because people are tired of being inside."
Parade watchers can line up on Mill Street south of Naperville North High School until the route turns east on Jefferson Avenue, south on Main Street and west on Water Street to its conclusion at the municipal center.
Two other Irish-themed events will lead up to the parade, which itself is a precursor to St. Patrick's Day on Monday, March 17.
First, West Suburban Irish puts on an Irish Mass at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 13, at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, 1500 Brookdale Road, Naperville. A musical prelude with soloists and a harpist begins at 6:30 p.m., and a reception with Irish dancers, Irish soda bread and tea follows the religious service. Anyone who might appreciate a traditional worship is welcome at the Mass, as Reilly said being Catholic or Irish is not necessary.
"We're just trying to celebrate and share our Irish heritage," he said.
And just before the parade takes to the streets, runners will use the route as their raceway during the fourth annual St. Paddy's Day 5K sponsored by Naperville Sunrise Rotary. The race starts at 8 a.m. at Centennial Beach, 500 W. Jackson Ave., and finishes there between 15 minutes and an hour later -- depending on a runner or walker's pace.
First finishers in races typically receive prizes, but this year, St. Paddy's Day 5K organizers created a new prize category for the best costume. Three winners will receive a $25 gift certificate to Naperville Running Company.
"We wanted to add something that was fun and that had nothing to do with a runner's finisher time," said Kevin Gensler, race director and Naperville Sunrise Rotary member. "Every year we've had people dress up as St. Patrick, leprechauns, with either costumes or hats. We thought we'd formalize that this year and award prizes for the three best costumes."
Prospective racers can sign up online at stpaddysday5k.org for $43 until Friday, March 14. If the 3,000 slots available do not sell out, race day registration also will be available before the starting gun, Gensler said.
The post-race food isn't corned beef and hash or green eggs and ham or green beer, but the spread has proved popular in races past, Gensler said. Finishers will find Jersey Mike's sandwiches, Braconi's pizza and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, along with the post-race staples of bananas, bagels and Gatorade.
Many runners and their fans stay to watch the parade, and some parade spectators turn out early to cheer on the racers, creating a full morning of St. Patrick's Day activities and optimism for the season ahead.
"It's a fun parade," Reilly said. "And it's kind of on the brink of the good weather coming."