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North Side Irish Fest Proposal Back on Table, Moved to Damen

By Patty Wetli | January 24, 2014 12:21pm
 The Northcenter Chamber of Commerce is once again proposing a North Side Irish Fest.
The Northcenter Chamber of Commerce is once again proposing a North Side Irish Fest.
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Flickr/Steven Depolo

NORTH CENTER — The Northcenter Chamber of Commerce is once again proposing a North Side Irish Fest that would celebrate the neighborhood's Irish influence, with a heavy focus on cultural programming.

The idea was first floated in 2013 but was ultimately shelved by Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th).

"It's about finding the right date and right footprint," the alderman said at the time.

In its latest incarnation — unveiled Thursday night at a public meeting — the festival would run Sept. 12-14 on Damen Avenue between Irving Park Road and Byron Avenue. The shift in location from the previously proposed Lincoln Avenue is intended to appease neighbors already affected by the chamber's annual Ribfest Chicago.

"We wanted to give merchants and residents in Ribfest's footprint a break," said Garrett FitzGerald, the chamber's executive director.

FitzGerald's pitch remained much the same as in 2013: a second neighborhood festival would provide an additional funding source for the chamber's philanthropic and community programs and guard against a catastrophic Ribfest.

The emphasis on cultural entertainment — traditional Irish music and dance, storytelling and a potential lecture series at Sulzer Library — would differentiate the event by providing an alternative to other "beer-tent-and-tribute-band" fests, added Lindsay Eanet, the chamber's associate director.

Leading up to the community meeting, a handful of residents had emailed the 47th Ward office with objections to the new proposal, mainly in regards to street closures, but none of those individuals attended Thursday, said Ernie Constantino, representing Pawar.

Although most of the dozen residents and business owners who were present at the meeting indicated their support for the event, a few concerns were raised.

Randy Kittell of Community Home Supply noted that the festival would block access to the business' parking lot and delivery dock on Damen Avenue.

"Saturday is one of the biggest days where homeowners can pick up product," he said. "We like seeing things happen in the community, we want the fest, just move it down a half a block so we can get to our dock."

If the alderman approves the festival, FitzGerald said the chamber would have nine months to work out a solution with Community Home Supply.

Constantino wasn't willing to speculate on when the alderman would make his decision on the festival.

Residents interested in voicing their support or opposition can contact the 47th Ward office at info@chicago47.org or 773-868-4747. The chamber can be reached at info@northcenterchamber.com or 773-525-3609.