Naperville Celebrates 25th St. Patrick’s Day Parade

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This year marks the 25th St. Patrick’s Day Parade to march through Naperville’s streets. With all of the local festivities surrounding the holiday, it’s important to remember the event’s modest beginnings.

It was in 1993 when Kevin Dolan decided Naperville’s Irish population deserved a better way to celebrate their heritage.

“When I moved to Naperville 25 years ago, they didn’t have a parade, so I just decided to start one,” said Dolan. “And I knew there were a lot of Irish people. I knew there were a lot. I didn’t know how many. Turns out, on this day, you’re either Irish, or you want to be.”

That first parade was just a few blocks long with a handful of people marching.

But in this year’s spectacle, there were 93 parade units and thousands of folks lining the streets.

“I would expect to have 12-15 thousand people lining the parade route and watching it,” said 2018 Parade Grand Marshall Chuck Corrigan. “They come from all over. It’s a great family parade. We keep the family spirit so it’s something everyone can enjoy.”

Plenty of families came out to celebrate their irish heritage or just to enjoy the atmosphere of the parade.

The day started with the annual St. Paddy’s Day 5k which registered more than 1700 racers. Some took the race a little less seriously than others.

“It’s great to get out here in Naperville and run for St. Paddy’s day on the break of spring and try to get outside to shake the winter blues,” said Damon King, who won the 5K with a time of 15:01.

Though it was near freezing temperatures when the race started runners seemed to shake off the cold and refuel before heading out to other activities.

“What we really want to give people is not just they get to run a good race but at the end of thing they walk away and say that was a good experience,” said Race Director Mark Schroeder. “We’ve got a post-race party that people can attend. Have a good time, have some food and then run or walk on down to the parade and enjoy themselves.”

The parade started at 10am at Naperville North and featured members of Irish history and royalty.

“My mom is 100% Irish and it’s always been something that I’ve always been proud of being,” said 2018 Parade Queen Gabrielle Santucci. “My dad is a part of the West Suburban Irish and it’s just always been a part of who my family is so I said why not try and be a part of the parade.”

The 2018 St. Patrick’s Day celebration was quite different from the one Dolan remembers in 1993, but he’s proud of what the parade has grown into.

“The big emotion is just simply it’s over, you know, for me,” Dolan said. “But the parade’s going to go on and I’m very happy about that.”

Naperville News 17’s Casey Krajewski reports.