Our Own Rite of Spring

Posted on 2/29/2016 8:41:00 AM

by Rich Reichert, President & C.E.O


Republished from 2011


I can’t wait. I have come to really look forward to the Elmhurst St. Patrick’s Day parade. I never used to be a big fan of parades and, although I have Irish heritage, was never one to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. That all changed about fifteen years ago. 
In 1997 a group of enthusiastic business people, led by the late Doug Kuester, saw their dream become reality with the first Elmhurst St. Pat’s parade on Spring Road. Each year the attendance has grown and the parade has become one of the largest St. Pat’s day parades in the entire state of Illinois. Okay, it’s still a parade and I’ve never been big on parades… as I already mentioned, but…
‘Chicagoans’ are accustomed to long winters and that’s part of who we are. But, when early March rolls around, I can’t wait to get outside and start to feel like spring is just around the corner. We are cooped up all winter and parade day gives us a reason to fill the streets of south Elmhurst. I live near the heart of the parade staging area and the excitement in my neighborhood starts about 9 a.m. Neighbors who have not been out much during the winter are in their driveways preparing their parade entries or their chairs for parade gazing. Children are decorating their wagons and bicycles. The street begins to fill with parked cars as folks from other parts of town – or other towns altogether – come to our south Elmhurst neighborhood for the parade.
The attendance at the parade is large. By my count, the official parade route is only 7 blocks long. Many of the attendees line up to watch even south of the starting point of the parade, which begins officially at Wilson Street. There are LOTS of people packed into that short parade route, just counting the spectators. 
Then there are the participants. Some have joked that there are more people in the parade than watching the parade – I doubt that, but it does seem like half of our town marches and the other half enjoys watching. It really does seem like EVERYONE is there! Young people are there. Old people are there. I see friends I have not seen since last year, friends I see every day and friends I have not seen in years. I enjoy walking up and down the staging area to say hello to these friends and see what crazy outfits some folks are wearing. I enjoy the pre-parade camaraderie as much as the parade itself.
We are all there celebrating our community and the coming of better weather ahead. Current parade chair Jim O’Connor agrees. “It’s the end of winter and a sign that summer is just ahead.” It may be only 20 degrees on parade day, but it still feels like spring. 
It's my own little rite of spring...and maybe yours also.  See you at the parade.