BEVERLY — Just as Chicago emerges from a long winter comes a shot of emerald green marching down Western Avenue on the Far Southwest Side.
The South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade marks the unofficial start of spring. Here's what you'll need to know to enjoy the day:
The 2015 parade begins at noon Sunday. It starts in Beverly at 103rd Street and travels down Western Avenue to 115th Street in Morgan Park. An estimated 150,000 spectators are expected at the parade.
Landing a good spot to watch the parade requires some forward thinking. Western Avenue closes to cars and buses from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. This is the main route in and out of the neighborhood so you'll need a strategy to maneuver through the crowd. And if you are planning on taking the Metra Rock Island train, you'll be prohibited from bringing alcohol onboard.
Street parking is available in the neighborhood but be prepared to walk. Parking is banned on parade day on the east side of Artesian Avenue from 103rd to 111th streets and on the west side of Claremont Avenue from from 103rd to 107th Streets. But spots should be available two or three blocks off of Western Avenue in either direction.
Want to get in some exercise before the parade? The Emerald Isle Mile begins at 11 a.m. at 112th and Western in Morgan Park. The one-mile race is hosted by Running Excels. Participants head north, ending at 104th Street in Beverly. The race enables joggers to see almost the entire parade route — albeit backwards.
The Irish-American Labor Council will lead the parade as grand marshal. The group was selected on Feb. 5 as a nod to the many union members living in the neighborhood. The Chicago Police Memorial Foundation is the honoree of the 2015 parade. This nonprofit organization raises money for the families of fallen police officers.
Mary Kate Love of Beverly is the South Side Irish Parade Queen. She'll also ride near the front of the parade, though she's much more comfortable playing 16-inch softball. Love has broken her middle finger and thumb playing Chicago's bare-hand sport.
There are 102 total entries in the parade this year. The bulk of the parade consists of neighborhood schools, Irish dancers and pipe and drum bands. But a handful of notable politicians will also be in the mix, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel, challenger Jesus "Chuy" Garcia and Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Be on the lookout for "The Noggeler." This 50-piece marching band from Lucerne, Switzerland will perform wearing oversized, human-esque masks and ornate costumes. The band may be one of the most unique — if not a bit creepy — entries at the parade.
The forecast for the afternoon looks spectacular. Sunny skies and temperatures near 60 degrees are expected. That being said, it never hurts to be prepared. Pack an extra sweatshirt just in case. If you'd like some official parade gear, visit South Side Irish Imports in Mount Greenwood.
Drinking with 800 feet of the parade route is going to cost you. The parade's zero-tolerance policy on alcohol will be enforced by both private security and Chicago Police. Anyone pinched for drinking or urinating in public will face fines of $500 to $1,000 or up to six months in jail.
If you'd like to have a beer and not break the law, you can find safe haven inside any of the bars along Western Avenue. Better yet, seek out a friend or relative hosting a party in the neighborhood and have a drink in his or her backyard.
The parade's renewed focus on family-friendly fun is alive and well at the Beverly Arts Center. The community center at 2407 W. 111th St. in Morgan Park hosts Get In, Get Irish! from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on parade day. Activities at the Beverly Arts Center on Sunday include a performance by Character Fleadh, an Irish acoustic band.
After the parade, there plenty of places throughout the neighborhood to grab a bite to eat. If you're hungry for a one-of-a-kind experience, try the Irish Burger from Five Star Burgers at 2353 W. 111th St. in Morgan Park. This savory sandwich is topped with corned beef, seared cabbage, a potato pancake, roasted tomatoes, Applewood-smoked bacon and white American cheese.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: