St. Patrick's parade set to march through Elmhurst

Must be time for the Elmhurst St. Patrick's Day Parade

Elmhurst takes the wearing of the green seriously.

The occasion of St. Patrick's Day calls for bringing out the bagpipers, the politicians, the marching bands, the really big drum and crowds along Spring Road that number in the tens of thousands.

And let's not forget the kazoo and bucket drum-playing men of the World Famous Elmhurst Armpit Orchestra. In all their boxer shorts-wearing glory, this contingent of musicians has been a mainstay of the Elmhurst St. Patrick's Day Parade for going on 10 years.

"It's all unconventional instruments. We don't allow any real instruments," said orchestra member Rich Reichert, president and CEO of Community Bank of Elmhurst and member of the parade committee.

The hourlong procession north along a one-mile stretch of Spring Road, beginning at Spring and Wilson Street and concluding at the intersection of Spring and the railroad tracks, is set to begin at noon Saturday, March 10.

This year's grand marshal is not a single person, but the Elmhurst American Legion THB Post 187 led by head marshal Dave Thompson, parade chairman Jim O'Connor said.

There will be 80 floats, Irish dancers; eight bands, including the York High School Marching Band and the Chicago Highlanders; nine Medinah Shriner units, including the Medinah Clowns; and Chicago team mascots, including Benny the Bull, Southpaw and Tommy Hawk.

O'Connor said Gov. Bruce Rauner is expected to participate, along with several other elected officials. Chris Kennedy, Democratic candidate for Illinois governor, also is expected to be in the parade, he said.

In a time-honored parade tradition, a 9-foot-diameter drum named Mary, billed as the world's largest, will be rolled out by the Armpit Orchestra. The drum bears the countenance of actor Bill Murray, for whom the drum was built in the hopes that Murray would grace the parade with his presence.

Reichert said that although Murray hasn't appeared at the event so far, organizers remain hopeful.

This year the drum will serve as a fundraising tool for a one-time scholarship established in honor of Darrell Whistler, a community leader who died in June. Whistler served on the city's Zoning and Planning Commission for more than 42 years and was active with several Elmhurst businesses and organizations.

"He was kind of our super volunteer. In fact, our mayor is naming a civic award after him," Reichert said.

Reichert said a scholarship will be awarded to a York High School senior who plays in the marching band and plans to study music in college. Funds will be collected prior to the parade at 1002 S. Swain, Elmhurst, the orchestra's headquarters.

"For every $20 or larger contribution, we're going to pin a picture of Darrell to our drum," he said.

Last year's parade crowd was estimated at more than 20,000, O'Connor said.

"It's a big turnout every year," Reichert said. "We've all been cooped up all winter. It's kind of Elmhurst's annual rite of spring."

Gov. Bruce Rauner, who marched last year in Elmhurst, is expected to return to the Elmhurst St. Patrick's Day Parade on Saturday. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy also is expected to march. Mike Mantucca for the Daily Herald

If you go

What: Elmhurst St. Patrick's Day Parade

When: Noon Saturday, March 10

Where: North on Spring Road from Wilson Street, Elmhurst

Admission: Free


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