BEVERLY — Emanuel, Garcia and Rauner aren't exactly the Irish surnames you'd expect to find at the South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade.
And yet all three politicians are expected to march in the neighborhood parade on the Far Southwest Side that begins at noon Sunday.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, challenger Jesus "Chuy" Garcia and Gov. Bruce Rauner will all walk south down Western Avenue from 103rd Street in Beverly to 115th Street in Morgan Park, according to parade organizers.
About 150,000 spectators are expected at the event — perhaps more if the sunny Spring-like forecast holds true. Pipe and drum bands, Irish dancers, vintage fire trucks and Irish wolfhounds are just a sampling of the 102 groups signed on to participate in the South Side Irish parade.
"Our focus is really on the family aspect of the parade, the community aspect. But everyone is welcome to come to the parade, so we are not going to prevent anyone from participating," said Tom McGourty, chairman of the parade committee.
And while organizers have downplayed the role of politicians at the event, Emanuel's appearance is notable in that it's believed to have been more than two decades since a Chicago mayor has marched in the South Side Irish parade.
Mayor Richard M. Daley last participated in the parade in the early 1990s, according to long-time observers of the neighborhood event. Daley's final jaunt down Western Avenue is believed to have coincided with the former mayor's personal edict against public appearances on Sundays.
Meanwhile, Garcia has been rather visible in the 19th Ward since announcing his candidacy for mayor in October. Garcia, a graduate of St. Rita High School in nearby Ashburn, did a pub crawl of sorts last month, meeting voters at several Western Avenue taverns.
The mayoral challenger even attended the pre-parade fundraiser for the South Side Irish Parade on Feb. 21.
Rauner's appearance in the parade comes after he upset Pat Quinn in the gubernatorial election on Nov. 11. The newly elected governor has butted heads with unions since taking office, including trying to use his authority to block public employee unions from collecting mandatory dues from workers.
But Rauner will have little choice but to stand behind the unions on Sunday, as the Irish-American Labor Council will lead the procession as the grand marshal of the 2015 parade.
Despite the political theater, McGourty said the heart of the parade remains the schools, neighborhood sports teams, community groups and other organizations that participate in the event regardless of the election cycle.
"We are not focused on the politicians," McGourty said.
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