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Should Chicago be the 'American Headquarters of St. Patrick's Day'?

CHICAGO — There's no official U.S. "headquarters" of St. Patrick's Day.

But if there was, would it be Chicago?

A collective of Irish Chicagoans and organizations called "ShamROCK Chicago" has been gunning for that title since Jan. 3.

No, the title doesn't exist yet. But they're not letting that get in their way.

"To our knowledge, I don't think anyone has approached Ireland with this in mind before," said Joe Connelly, co-chairman of the South Side Irish Parade and a member of ShamROCK Chicago.

"I think the designation right now is somewhat what we would call 'loose' and more in the spirit of fun ... [but] we really think this is one way to help strengthen the bonds between the city of Chicago and Ireland itself."

To convince Ireland that Chicago is worthy of the nonexistent title "U.S. headquarters of St. Patrick's Day," the group has been campaigning for signatures on a petition it will present to Aidan Cronin, the Consul General of Ireland in Chicago, on Monday, though voting remains open through the March 17.

"Aidan Cronin has been a great sport about it. We have no promises that we will get this distinction from Ireland, but we do have a promise that he will accept our request," said Marlene Byrne, president of Celtic Chicago Inc. and a member of ShamROCK Chicago.

The group's street team will be on hand at festivities in the next week collecting signatures, ShamROCK Chicago spokesman Jeremy Hogan said.

Visitors have been voting on the group's site since January, but Hogan said they expect to get "a majority of our votes over the next 10 days, particularly at this weekend’s South Side parade and the following weekend at the dyeing of the river."

They're also soliciting "likes" on Facebook and Twitter shares, anything that shows support for the initiative to help them make their case to the consulate.

"We have no bar to meet, we're just getting as many as possible," Byrne said.

While ShamROCK Chicago hopes to get a favorable verdict from Cronin Monday, Connelly said the initiative alreadyhas  achieved its primary goal, to "build excitement among all the various initiatives, across the city and suburbs, to celebrate St. Patrick's Day."

But until they get the final verdict, Byrne said they'll be rallying for an endorsement from as many Chicagoans as they can reach.

"We're gonna ask," Byrne said. "You can't get it if you don't ask."