Parade helps Naperville celebrate all things Irish
By David Sharos For The Sun March 16, 2013 2:00PM
Bag pippers walk and play in the 20th annual Western Suburban Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade in downtown Naperville on Saturday, March 16, 2013. | Tim Perroud~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 18, 2013 7:06AM
Some argue it’s a sign of spring, while others look forward to the family reunions that often accompany the day. But whatever the reason, a St. Patrick’s Day parade always seems to go down easy in Naperville.
Saturday morning, the West Suburban Irish held its 20th annual parade, complete with more than 100 groups that marched along the parade route that began at Naperville North High School at Mill Street and Ogden Avenue and continued on for a little more than a mile before ending at the Naperville Municipal Center.
Former president and director of the West Suburban Irish, Kevin Dolan, served as the grand marshal and noted that this year’s weather was more typical for the parade than last year, when temperatures skyrocketed into the 80s.
“I was saying to some people the other night that for all these years, we’ve never had a parade where the weather was more than 40 degrees,” Marshall said. “Last year, we had temperatures in the 80s, and I was told that at least 17,000 people came out for the parade. I hope that many come back again this year, regardless of the weather.”
Saturday brough gloomy skies and cold drizzle, but folks pressed on. Dolan said he believes the St. Patrick’s Day event continues to have universal appeal, even though many who celebrate it aren’t Irish.
“Many of the parades each year like the Memorial Day or Veterans Day are dignified and solemn at times, but the St. Patrick’s Day parade is just plain fun,” he said. “For those who are Irish, it’s a chance to show your heritage and your roots. You’ll see 60 people all crowded together marching along with a banner that says ‘The McNulty Family’ or whatever. It’s more than just green beer.”
Naperville Park District Commissioner Mike Reilly was directing parade participants to the staging area as he stood in front of Naperville North High School an hour before the 10 a.m. start. Dressed all in green including a feathered green derby hat, Reilly said his day began bright and early with a 7 a.m. breakfast meeting and a final briefing.
Folks watching or participating in this year’s parade seemed prepared for the weather. Paula Traviolia of Naperville said she was “double layered” and that she tries to attend the parade every year. Traviolia brought her dog Bismarck along, who is used as a therapy dog in the Edward Animal Assisted Therapy Program.
“Bismarck has been in the program for 5½ years, and a number of us are coming out for the parade today,” she said. “I try to come every year, and for me, this is not about being Irish. It’s just another day to celebrate Naperville and see the community come together.”
Brian Lubacz of Tinley Park and his wife Beth also brought dogs to this year’s event and said it was their first time participating in the annual parade. Brian said he was representing the Chicago Blaze Rugby Club. Both of the dogs the Lubacz couple brought sported green kerchiefs that were given to them by the St. Baldrick’s group that was on hand Saturday.
“They don’t seem to mind wearing the kerchiefs around their neck,” Beth Lubacz said about her pets. “I think the dogs are going to be excited today because of the all people they’re going to see.”
Kelly Viton of Naperville brought her daughter Rosy, 9, and both participated in this year’s parade rather than just being spectators. Viton said a friend of hers was running for the Naperville School District 203 Board and that she and her daughter were there to lend their support.
“This is a day for Irish people to celebrate their heritage, but the Irish also embrace those who aren’t of their nationality,” she said. “As long as you’re wearing green, no one cares.”