By Lynn Petrak, from the Chicago Tribune on-line

Published Jan 15, 2016

Chicago may be a melting pot of ethnicities, but March 17 is a special day around here.

Even if you’re not Irish, I bet most of you wear green on St. Patrick’s Day. There’s a reason grocery stores start stocking corned beef, soda bread and Guinness beer starting in late February and why I start stalking my local McDonald’s for the first Shamrock Shake of the season.

Many people in this area likely have gone to a St. Patrick’s Day parade, including the one in downtown Chicago. It’s a rite of passage to see the guy in the boat dyeing the Chicago River green and stand along the route, hands and feet freezing, waiting for the first strains of “Scotland the Brave” from bagpipers with the Shannon Rovers.

In addition to the Chicago parade, other parades attract crowds, too, including the famous South Side Irish Parade and the Elmhurst St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

You can add another St. Patrick’s parade to the list of events that celebrate all things Irish. This year, the city of Countryside is holding its first St. Patrick’s Day Family Parade at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 5.

The idea came from Mayor Sean McDermott, a 20-year resident who was elected last April after serving more than seven years an alderman. McDermott, along with a committee comprised of residents Tim Ryan and Mark and Sheila Benson and Jack Hoffenkamp, owner of Kenny’s Irish Pub, have been busy planning the logistics for the event, which is co-sponsored by the city of Countryside, the Countryside Business Association, International Operating Engineers, Local 150 and Kenny’s.

“We wanted to start our own parade in a way that got the community involved,” says event chairperson Tim Ryan.

To get that community involvement, the parade route will wind its way down some residential streets as well as busier roads like Brainard Avenue, crossing over into Plainfield Road and ending with festivities at Kenny’s.

In addition, says Ryan, the parade will benefit a particular nonprofit cause each year. Based on a suggestion from McDermott, the inaugural parade will benefit the Kelli Joy O’Laughlin Memorial Foundation, which awards scholarships to young people in honor of the late Kelli O’Laughlin. The grand marshals of the 2016 event are Kelli’s parents and foundation founders John and Brenda O’Laughlin.

Already, the parade has lined up a variety of participants, including bagpipe groups and a float with members of the Best Buddies program at LTHS. Ryan says plans are in the works to crown a parade queen who is a Best Buddies member from Countryside.

Sponsors are being sought to help begin, promote and execute the parade. Sponsorships, which are due on Feb. 12, include Pot O’ Gold ($500), Emerald ($250) and Shamrock ($100) levels.

Ryan and the parade committee members hope the event will become a community tradition. “It’s St. Patrick’s Day – let’s enjoy it!” he declares.

For more information or to become a sponsor, email Tim Ryan at [email protected].