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After two years off, the South Side Irish Parade is back, but the drunks in the streets are not. Instead, it's a family-friendly parade enjoyed by young and old.
The South Side Irish Parade's return to Chicago on Sunday was a triumphant success.
Two years ago, the parade was canceled because it had become a spectacle of public drunkenness that left the neighborhood a rowdy mess. Neighbors complained about the crowd's complete lack of regard for public decency, and arrests were common.
But at 11 a.m. Sunday, a re-envisioned parade stepped off, with fewer floats, greater security and a zero-tolerance crackdown on alcohol.
Parade organizers said 150,000 people come out to see the South Side Irish Parade's rebirth. They said the zero-tolerance policy was a complete success, with just one arrest, a misdemeanor, all day.
"The Parade Committee set out to recast and reclaim its beloved parade, and with the help of Chicago's finest accomplished that in aces," a spokesman for the parade committee said in a printed release. "Tradition marches on."
The parade route went along Western Avenue, from 103rd Street to 115th Street. The committee says 80 percent of those who came out were from the immediate surrounding community, and half of them were children. The return of families to the South Side Irish Parade is what organizers had been hoping for. The parade has roots as a family celebration, but had grown into an unruly behemoth that drove families away.
Family was central to this year's parade. Modie Lavin, the mother of fallen U.S. Marine Conner Lowry, cut the ribbon for the event. She marched the parade route next to a large image of her son, carried by other family and friends. At the end of the parade, a Marine escort took her home.