BEVERLY — The sound of bagpipes and sirens will fill the air Sunday as the South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade makes its way through Beverly and Morgan Park.
The annual event marks the unofficial start of spring for many South Siders. Here's what you need to know ahead of a day filled with emerald-green goodness:
The 2016 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 200,000 spectators are expected along the route.
The forecast could keep fair-weather fans at home. Meteorologists are calling for showers on parade day — though nobody seems to know exactly when to expect the downpour. That said, it would be wise to wear shoes that'll keep your socks dry and carry an umbrella.
Getting to and from the parade route can be tricky. Western Avenue will close to cars and buses around 9 a.m. This is main route in and out of the neighborhood, so you'll need to familiarize yourself with side streets to get to those house parties and bars along the route.
Pay attention to parking restrictions or risk getting towed. Vehicles parked on Western Avenue from 99th to 119th streets will be towed at 6 a.m. Sunday. Tow trucks will begin clearing side streets along the route at 8 a.m.
This includes the east side of Artesian Avenue from 103rd to 111th streets. Also, all east-west streets leading to the parade route between 103rd and 115th streets will be closed within 75 feet of Western Avenue or up to the first alley.
Public transportation is recommended. But if you are planning to take Metra's Rock Island train, alcohol will be prohibited onboard.
Drinking within 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 on Western Avenue. Better yet, seek out a friend or relative hosting a party in the neighborhood and keep the drinks in the backyard or garage.
Want to get in some exercise before the parade? The Emerald Isle Mile begins at 11:30 a.m. at 104th and Western in Morgan Park. The 1-mile race hosted by Running Excels has reversed its course this year and pushed up the start time. The goal is to have runners enjoy a considerably larger crowd as they sprint along the parade route.
Pick up a free Italian beef sandwich from the soon-to-open Buona Beef in Beverly. Whether it's from running a mile or simply watching the parade, you'll likely get hungry at some point Sunday. Buona Beef will hand out 2,500 free sandwiches to promote its new location set to open March 22 at 10659 S. Western Ave.
Joe Buonavolanto III, director of training for the restaurant chain, said Tuesday the sandwiches will be distributed at noon from a trailer parked outside of Buona Beef's first Chicago location. He also encouraged those watching the parade to take a selfie in front of the restaurant for a chance to win free beef for a year.
A coalition of four charities called South Siders Fighting Childhood Cancer will lead the parade as grand marshal. The group includes the parents behind Live Like John, Emily Beazley's Kures for Kids, the Maeve McNicholas Memorial Foundation and Pat Mac's Pack.
All of these groups were started after the tragic death of a child. In the aftermath, the charities have raised money for research aimed at improving the odds for others diagnosed with the deadly disease.
The 2016 parade honoree is the 100 Club of Chicago, which provides financial assistance and other support to first responders who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
South Side Irish Parade Queen Alison Kelly will compete in an international Irish dancing contest next weekend. Kelly will travel to Glasgow, Scotland, to compete in the 2016 World Irish Dancing Championships just one week after leading the parade.
Kelly, 18, of southwest suburban Evergreen Park began Irish dancing at age 4.
There are 100 entries in the parade this year. The bulk of the parade consists of neighborhood schools, Irish dancers and pipe and drum bands. Other highlights include an appearance by the Windy City Ghostbusters and the 501st Legion, a group of "Star Wars" fans who will march in costume.
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