West Suburban Irish gearing for St. Patrick's Day Parade
West Suburban Irish gearing for St. Patrick's Day Parade in Naperville
The streets of downtown Naperville will green up before the official start of spring when the West Suburban Irish presents its 24th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade on Saturday morning.
Roughly 100 floats and marching units will bring Irish tradition and culture alive with musicians, dancers and colorful, costumed units such as the Indiana Jones Fan Club, parade organizer Terry O'Dowd said.
If you goWhat: 24th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade, organized by West Suburban Irish
When: 10 a.m. Saturday, March 11
Where: Downtown Naperville
Info: (630) 375-7725 or wsirish.org
A fair number of community groups and Girl Scout and Boy Scout units will be represented, along with a dozen or so politicians, including Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico and several city council members.
"We'll have Realtors, small business people, the Somonauk High School Marching Band," O'Dowd said.
Shriners from the DuPage Shrine Club and their motorized "Cruzin' Coolers" also will wend their way along the 1½-mile route.
The lineup will be presided over by grand marshal Nancy Quigley, co-owner of Quigley's Irish Pub.
"The parade will be led off by the Naperville Police Department motorcycles, followed by the Naperville Fire Department, which is always a big draw for kids," O'Dowd said.
The parade is set to begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 11, at Naperville North High School on Mill Street. The route takes the procession south on Mill to Jefferson Avenue, east on Jefferson to Main Street and south on Main to Water Street, where the parade ends. O'Dowd said the event should last a couple hours.
He said spectators should plan to arrive early to ensure a good spot.
"I would get there between 9 and 9:30 a.m. You see a lot of people put down chairs and blankets and stake their claims," he said. "It's a lot of families, so you see a lot of kids out there. When you get in the downtown area, it's six people deep."
This year's parade queen is Colleen Caitlin Moran, a senior at St. Francis High School in Wheaton, where she plays varsity lacrosse and mentors freshmen.
Her court includes Gabrielle Santucci, who attends Waubonsie Valley High School, and her younger sister, Nicole Santucci; and Annamarie Lombardo, who attends Glenbard West High School, O'Dowd said.
O'Dowd has lived in Naperville for more than 30 years and is a longtime member of West Suburban Irish.
"Truthfully, they're the nicest group of people trying to promote Irish heritage," he said.
The annual St. Patrick's Day Parade is one of several events the nonprofit group sponsors, including quiz nights at Quigley's Irish Pub on the first Tuesday of nearly every month. This year, Tuesday, March 14, is the date for a special Mass at St. Raphael's Catholic Church, which will be followed by a soda bread reception with Irish dancers, O'Dowd said.
O'Dowd said he was curious enough about his own lineage that he did a DNA search through an online service. The results clarified what he already suspected.
"I'm 93 percent Irish," he said.
O'Dowd said his maternal grandparents immigrated to America from Ireland in 1906; his paternal grandparents arrived in 1870.
Irish heritage, however, is not a prerequisite for enjoying the parade, he said. An adage says everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day, and organizers believe the sentiment applies on parade day as well. Even if the skies seem more inclined to deliver rain or winter weather than a sunny spring day, O'Dowd said.
"If it rains, we'll still do it," he said. "It's just that everybody gets wet."