‘A wonderful Irish day’: Thousands celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in parade

It wasn’t quite spring-like weather Saturday, but the bright sunshine helped warm several thousand people who turned out for Naperville’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

“Here comes Naperville’s finest,” Dolly McCarthy, CLTV News anchor, said from the reviewing stand at Jefferson Avenue and Webster Street as the Naperville Police and Fire Department entrants led the way.

The Parade kicked off just after 10 a.m. at Naperville North High School, from where it headed north on Mill Street toward the downtown business district.

The Parade turned east on Jefferson, then north again on Main Street, crossing the River and ending at the Municipal Center.

Jefferson Avenue between Webster and Main streets had crowds packing the sidewalks on both sides of the street and was a virtual sea of green sweaters, hats and jackets.

“Look at all the smiling Irish eyes out there,” McCarthy said.

Grand Marshal was Naperville Park District Commissioner Mike Reilly, who said before the Parade that he “was really honored to be named Grand Marshal.”

Naperville Central Senior Nellie Rose Barry was chosen by the West Suburban Irish to be 2014 St. Patrick’s Day Parade Queen.

The Parade lasted one hour and 10 minutes. As of early in the week, some 86 different entrants were scheduled to march or have floats.

Local officials marching included Mayor George Pradel and Naperville City Council members.

The Firefighter’s Highland Guard marched, as did the McNulty Dancers and the Weber Dance company.

Several Girl Scout Troops marched, as did one Cub Scout Den, several schools and numerous community groups.

Candidates for political office were out in force, and included an entrant representing Bill Brady for Governor, Darlene Senger for Congress, Tom Cross for State Treasurer and Bert Miller for Congress.

The Naperville Township Democrat organization marched in the Parade, as did the Lisle Township Republicans.

The crowd seemed in a festive mood.

“We always go to the Parade every year,” Downers Grove resident Colleen O’Brien said. “Two years ago it was hot…this year we just bundled up.”

Naperville resident Lourdes Chew also comes every year, saying that she always ran the St. Paddy’s Day 5K in the morning.

“I love taking my daughter to the parade,” she said. “This is my fourth consecutive year.”

Many businesses were packed with customers, especially those on Jefferson Avenue.

“We’re enjoying being with all of our wonderful customers,” Colleen Hickey-Conway said behind the counter at The Irish Way, 105 W. Jefferson, a shop that sells goods imported from Ireland. “It’s a big day for the Green and St. Patrick.”

While Hickey-Conway is first generation Irish American, her mother came from County Sligo and her father was raised in County Clare.

Mayor Pradel said “it’s a wonderful Irish day today…so many in green.”

Illinois State Senator Michael Connelly was not surprised at the strong turnout, and noted that the prolonged winter weather played a part.

“People have a strong case of cabin fever,” he said.

“This is a great opportunity for them to get out of the house.”