BEVERLY — A lot of work goes into the South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade.
Perhaps that's why the Irish-American Labor Council was selected as the grand marshal of the 2015 parade. Organizers announced their selection Wednesday afternoon in the north parking lot of the Beverly Woods Restaurant and Banquet Hall.
As snow accumulated on the podium, laborers hung trusses at the nearby Morgan Park Sports Center at 11505 S. Western Ave. The construction site served as a fitting backdrop as the labor council accepted the designation.
"We are an organization that is not used to being in the spotlight," said Pat Hosty, president of the council.
There are no dues required of the members of this nonprofit organization. The labor council consists of various men and women working in the building trades along with a few law firms, public accountants and others, Hosty said.
The Chicago chapter of the council was founded in 1995 to raise money for a monument in Chicago’s Union Park to honor Irish labor leader James Connolly. The statue was completed and dedicated in 2008, but the council has remained active, raising money for the Mercy Home for Boys & Girls and other charities.
"We always talk about family, tradition and Irish heritage," said Tom McGourty, chairman of the parade scheduled for noon March 15.
"This was an exact pairing for us," he said.
The parade that begins in Beverly at 103rd Street and marches south on Western Avenue to 115th Street in Morgan Park will also recognize the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation as its honoree.
This nonprofit organization raises money for the families of fallen police officers, helping pay for tuition and other expenses, said John Gordon, project manager for the foundation.
Gordon's brother, Michael, was killed in the line of duty on Aug. 8, 2004. On Wednesday, John Gordon stood flanked by three local widows of fallen officers.
"The Chicago Police Memorial Foundation honors our promise to never forget," Gordon said.
South Side Irish Imports will sell official parade merchandise this year. The specialty shop with stores in Mount Greenwood and south suburban Tinley Park has pledged to donate $1 from every T-shirt and sweatshirt sold to the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation.
As for the upcoming parade, McGourty is hoping for pleasant weather as the last two jaunts down Western Avenue were plagued with either freezing temperatures or steady rain.
He said the parade would be a bit bigger this year with 110 entrants — up from 95 in 2014. But he still expected to keep the parade within a two-hour time frame.
McGourty hopes the increases will come from additional marching bands participating in the parade. He's also reached out to the Jackie Robinson West Little League championship team in the hopes of securing their participation.
He further expects to maintain the parade's family-friendly atmosphere and zero-tolerance alcohol policy, both deemed imperative upon the return of the event in March 2012 after a two-year hiatus.
To pay for the increased security along with additional portable toilets, organizers will host the 2015 South Side Irish Parade Pre-Parade Fundraiser from 6-11 p.m. Feb. 21 at 115 Bourbon Street in south suburban Merrionette Park.
The fundraiser at 3359 W. 115th St. is an important part of helping the committee reach its $200,000 annual goal. Tickets to the event cost $30 and can be bought online or at the door.
McGourty doesn't anticipate any problems this year or going forward, saying the vibe of the parade has changed dramatically since it was shut down due to poor behavior. He said increased fines, improved security and an end to party buses filled with drunken revelers have gone a long way toward solving the problems of the past.
"If you think about it, all we are saying to people is that for two hours on a Sunday, you can't drink outside," he said.
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