The Irish Marching Society needs your help covering costs of having the parade in Rockford because the city charges $2,200 to march in the Forest City.
I’m not sure how long the Irish Marching Society has sponsored the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Rockford, but it’s been a long time. Because the parade typically takes place just days before the Illinois primary in even-numbered years, and two weeks away from municipal elections in odd-numbered years, it often features political candidates battling for one office or another.
That’s fitting, because of all the immigrants who have come to the U.S. in the past two centuries, it’s the Irish, historically denied access to political power in their homeland by their British overlords, who have taken to politics here as ducks to water.
George H.W. Bush marched in Rockford’s March 12, 1988, St. Patrick’s Day Parade, according to the Rockford Register Star, “joined by his wife, Barbara; retired Air Force Gen. Chuck Yeager; then-Gov. James R. Thompson; and then-U.S. Rep. Lynn Martin. Thompson was Bush’s Illinois honorary presidential campaign chairman, and Martin, a Loves Park Republican, was a national co-chairman of the vice president’s campaign.”
Hillary Clinton marched in Rockford’s St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1992 on behalf of Bill Clinton, who was making his first run for president. Mrs. Clinton then spoke at a rally in Democratic U.S. Rep. John Cox’s campaign headquarters downtown on East State Street. (Cox was defeated in November 1992 by the GOP’s Don Manzullo.)
Various governors and wannabe governors and senators have appeared over the years, and the parade always has featured local candidates and officeholders galore, as well as the traditional floats and Irish-American music.
One parade that was particularly fun was in 1981, when Democrat John McNamara and Republican Norm Kearney were both running for mayor of Rockford to succeed Bob McGaw, a Democrat who retired after two terms. Kearney’s supporters marched under the banner of “Kearney’s Clan,” while the larger and considerably rowdier McNamara crew proclaimed they were “McNamara’s Band”. They did have a band of sorts, which tried mightily to play the tune “McNamara’s Band”.
The parade is also fun because it’s the first parade of the year. Sometimes the weather is balmy, sometimes it’s blustery. After it’s over, everyone goes to a big hall and has a party with Irish-themed musicians.
This year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade is scheduled for March 12. Last week, Irish Marching Society board member Danny McDade asked me to help the group promote this year’s parade and raise the level of interest and participation among Rockford-area organizations, political leaders and businesses. The society is a nonprofit and needs to raise money to pay for expenses. Any money left over is used for worthy causes.
In other words, they’re short of money. The city of Rockford is now charging a hefty fee to groups that have parades. The Irish Marching Society has to pay $2,200, McDade said.
“Normally any excess funds except for a little seed money is given to local nonprofits or charity,” McDade said in an email. “Our website (irishmarchingsociety.com) lists all the past benefactors of our giving. We didn’t keep enough nor do we make that much excess to pay for the parade with our program ad fees and low entry fee to the after party. We don’t charge families or nonprofits to march, and we are open to all.”
The group needs more people and groups to respond to their request. Go to their website, which has all the information about the group, the parade, the after party and how to contribute. Do it, or the leprechauns will get you.
City of Rockford leaders, by charging thousands of dollars for parades, are sending the message that parades are a nuisance with which they would rather not bother, so I recommended to McDade that in the future they consider having the parade on North Second Street in Loves Park.
I talked with Loves Park Mayor Darryl Lindberg. He said he’d be glad for his city to host the parade, and Loves Park doesn’t charge anything to parade organizations. Because North Second through Loves and Machesney parks is a boulevard, you can have a parade on one side of the street and keep the other side open to traffic.The only thing Lindberg asks is that if the Irish Marching Society ever does decide to have the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Loves Park, the group agrees to have a contingent in the annual Young At Heart parade, which takes place in conjunction with the annual Young at Heart Festival.