BEVERLY — The sound of bagpipes and sirens will soon fill the air 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 2017 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 parade will last about two hours.
More than 100 different groups participate in the parade. This includes 13 bagpipe and marching bands, four Irish dance schools, floats with live music and plenty of fire trucks and other emergency vehicles.
But the bulk of the parade consists of local parishes, floats from Irish families in the neighborhood and area sports teams. Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School's state champion volleyball squad will be among the teams featured in the 2017 parade.
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. on parade day. 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. These parking restrictions end at 3 p.m.
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 at checkpoints surrounding the parade route. 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. The one-mile run follows the parade route and is limited to 500 runners. A portion of the proceeds supports the subsequent parade.
The Emerald Isle Mile kicks off the South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade on Sunday. The one-mile race starts at 11:30 a.m. [Supplied Illustration]
The Les Turner ALS Foundation will lead the parade as grand marshal. The nonprofit organization has been working in Chicago for 40 years to fund research, patient care and education concerning Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
Christmas Without Cancer is the special honoree of the 2017 parade. This nonprofit organization identifies families in the Chicago area stricken with cancer and provides gifts along with other basic necessities.
Shannon Reilly Zofkie is the South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade Queen. The student from St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind. will also lead the parade and be joined by fellow Beverly natives Maggie McEldowney who was named Ireland's 2016 Rose of Tralee and Maura Connors, who is queen of the 2017 Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade.