MORGAN PARK — Organizers of the South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade believe 2014 will be a banner year.
To offset the cost of the parade on March 16, the planning committee is selling T-shirts and personalized mini-banners, designed to look like the street pole banners that will line the parade route.
A storefront at 10934 S. Western Ave. will be open from noon-6 p.m. on Wednesdays and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturdays leading up to Christmas. The mini-banners cost $50. Short-sleeve T-shirts cost $20, and long-sleeve T-shirts cost $25.
"I think when those banners go up, you know something is coming," said Kevin Coakley, co-chairman of the parade committee.
His group is tasked with raising $200,000 annually for the parade that marches down Western Avenue on the Sunday before St. Patrick's Day. The steep sum is used to pay city fees, hire private security, bring in portable toilets and cover other parade-day expenses.
Most of this money is raised in the days leading up to the parade. Sponsorships cover the bulk of the debt, with local businesses such as County Fair Foods and The Beverly Review stepping up to the plate.
Proceeds from the annual Pre-Parade Kick-Off Party and a $10,000 raffle also support the parade. Tickets for the raffle cost $50 and are for sale now. The drawing is held the morning of the parade.
The pre-party costs $30 and is scheduled from 3-8 p.m. Feb. 22 at 115 Bourbon Street in nearby Merrionette Park.
The street pole banners are another parade fundraising mainstay. The full-size banners cost $225 and are placed on street poles along the parade route throughout March. A mini-banner is included in the cost of the full-size banner, along with storage for the next year. Hanging a banner for the second year costs $110, and street pole banners have a two-year lifespan.
Street pole banners are nothing new, as businesses often collaborate to decorate a shopping district. But the South Side Irish Parade is unique in that families often buy banners in support of the parade, lining the streets with Irish surnames like Sheehan, Durkin and Fitzgerald.
As a result, the mini-banners are often prominently displayed in the homes of parade supporters. This was the inspiration behind offering the personalized mini-banners as a holiday gift, Coakley said.
He hopes the holiday sale of mini-banners and T-shirts will give organizers a head start on the daunting task of fundraising.
"Every year we make it, but it's a lot of work," he said.