Long before the St. Patrick's Day Parade stepped off Saturday to wind through downtown Naperville, grand marshal Mike Reilly planned to bring a bit of Irish magic to the festivities.
Reilly, who serves on the Naperville Park District board, wanted to walk with a few leprechauns. And even if they were local children he'd recruited to march in costume, there's no doubt they conjured up dreams of rainbows leading to pots of gold in the minds of the crowds that lined the route to see the parade organized by the West Suburban Irish.
In addition to Reilly and his lucky entourage, the crowd was treated to a royal wave from Parade Queen Nellie Rose Barry as well as a bevy of bagpipers, Irish step dancers, community groups and a few politicians. In all, about 100 parade units entertained the Irish and the would-be Irish who lined the route stretching from Naperville North High School to the Naperville Municipal Center.
"I love spreading the Irish spirit," said Mary Kate Zimmerman of the McNulty Irish Dancers said. "I've been in this parade for 10 years."
The parade capped a series of St. Patrick's events that began Thursday with an Irish Mass at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, an event also organized by the West Suburban Irish. And before the parade stepped off on Saturday, runners ushered in the race season with the Naperville Sunrise Rotary's St. Paddy's 5K that traced the parade route.