Saturday, March 11, marks the 30th anniversary of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Naperville, held by the West Suburban Irish. What’s now a yearly tradition of celebrating Irish heritage began with one person looking to make a difference.
“So the parade was started by Kevin Dolan, Naperville resident, who was (of) Irish descent, and he felt we could have a St. Patrick’s Day parade supported in Naperville back in 1993. So he started the first parade…there were only five or six entries, and then the next year grew more, and it eventually evolved into the parade we have now,” said West Suburban Irish Parade Committee Chairman Paul Santucci. “We estimate and we get anywhere from five (thousand) to 15,000 people on the streets watching the parade.”
Celebrating Irish heritage and culture
Over the years, the celebration of all things Irish has expanded, as the West Suburban Irish now put on events year-round in Naperville.
“We now have music that performs Irish instruments at Quigley’s once a month. We have a quiz night the first Tuesday of every month at Quigley’s. So we have multiple events now. We have an Irish mass that we just had last Monday was very successful, and now we have this Irish Fest,” said Santucci.
But the parade is a long-standing tradition, looked forward to by many as a chance to gather as a community.
“It’s basically an excuse for all of us to get together and enjoy what Naperville brings. Everyone loves a lot of things about Naperville. It’s always ranked as one of the top places to live and to raise children, and our parade as well has become, I think, well known as a very safe, very fun, family-friendly event,” said Santucci.
This year’s parade celebrates New Beginnings
The theme for this year’s parade is “New Beginnings,” meant to celebrate the new West Suburban Irish president Matt Jones, the new start to spring, and a new downtown location and date for the group’s Irish Fest for September 22 and 23.
The parade starts at 10 a.m., kicking off at Naperville North High School, then heading down Mill Street on a route through downtown Naperville. It will be led by longtime Naperville resident and annual parade participant John Drohan. Floats, bands, and St. Patrick himself will be part of the fun, along with some new entries this time around.
“We also are working with the Naperville Downtown Alliance…we gained ten new small businesses from Naperville to enter the parade, which is very exciting…It’s our ‘new beginnings.’ We’re celebrating that even though the parade’s in its 30th year, it can be refreshed and new, and that’s what we’re hoping to bring forward,” said Santucci.
NCTV17 will stream the parade live online and on-air.
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