I can imagine the laughter our readers from the North are holding back right now. It's true, Chicago is well know for it's Irish community. There are still whole neighborhoods (Beverly) that cater to the Irish family and traditions. The St Patrick's Day celebrations that originate in Chicago are taken so seriously the city famously dyes the Chicago River green. (Yes, that's pretty cool, but work with me here - they're laughing at you right now) As far as American cities tied to St Patty's goes, Chicago is probably near the top, right behind Boston. As for St Louis, I'm not sure that anyone outside of the region would know we even have a parade, let alone two. I mean, sure, they likely assume we have at least some sort of celebration... Maybe we dress children up like leprechauns and pull them around in wagons or, maybe, let all the traffic lights stay at green all day... One thing is for sure - there'd be no point in dying the Mississippi River. That dark shade of brown isn't going anywhere.
Ok, so we don't do anything super cool like Chicago's green river. But we both, historically, have Downtown and local Irish neighborhood parades (we have Dogtown while Chicago has the Southside parade). There's got to be something cool and unique about our celebration, right? For you, the dear reader, I thought I'd better find out. For purely scientific reasons I decided to participate in both St Louis parades; The Saturday Downtown parade and the Dogtown neighborhood parade on Wednesday. Unfortunately, I participated in my research [read: beer drinking] a little too much to completely fulfill all of my required experiments. But, in the spirit of people underestimating St Louis, let's compare the Chicago and St Louis celebrations anyway!
Let's get the craziest part out of the way... Did you know that Chicago doesn't actually have a parade on St Patrick's Day (StPD)? That's right! Their Downtown Parade is on the Saturday before StPD just like ours is, but the Southside parade is on Sunday. Score one gigantic point, St Louis, for having your neighborhood parade on *actual* StPD. Now, I know for a fact this wasn't always the case.
Back in the pre-aughts (or 90's) when I was in high school, Chicago definitely had the Downtown parade on the day of. How can I be so sure? Because every kid and their best friend, Cameron, skipped school to go to the parade. Sadly no one I knew had a 60's model Ferrari to drive Downtown in, but we did have the Metra and it goes pretty fast. Also, you can drink on the Metra - and we did. Actually, we drank at the bars downtown too! I was, at the most, 16 and surely didn't have a fake ID. How the hell did we get away with that? I can only assume that all the children skipping school and getting absolutely trashed is one of the reasons Chicago changed up it's day of parading. Either that or they agreed Sundays make better hangover days.
As for St Louis's Saturday parade, it's definitely a family affair. Not that people aren't getting way beyond buzzed. There is definitely a party in the streets. Many a college student was beyond comprehension when I walked up to the just started parade.
The parade itself is fairly pedestrian... They do have a few Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade style balloons. You know, the one's that always seem to be 10 to 15 years behind the times. This year I'm pretty sure I saw both Garfield and Power Rangers balloons. Being that this is a StPD parade, you better believe the creepiest of creepy traditions was in full effect. No, it's not the teenage stepdancers although I do think that's weird. It's the little girls dressed as stepdancers!!! It's like they've been growing them in really humid basements. Just look at that curly hair! And the make-up? Why?
I know, I know. It's a tradition and I'm sure one many girls are proud to take part of. And truth-be-told I think its a pretty cool display to watch. I just don't get why they bring the toddlers along and make them dress up like that. It's beauty pageant creepy. Of course they have that in all StPD parades so that's nothing new. What is seemingly different about St Louis's StPD parade is that you can claim roadside parade-route plots!
I'm not sure how it's done or organized, but people practically build forts out there on the sidewalk. Seriously, it's like a rudimentary home. The party tent I hung out in was heated and had two private port-a-potties. And it wasn't some company that set it up. It was just a family! Apparently all they did was rent some bathrooms, told them where to drop them, and then the morning of the parade set built a small home around them. I promise you it was awesome and more than made up for my stubborn insistence that it was no longer winter. I would have frozen my ass off out there. As for Chicago, I'm pretty sure they'd shoot you if you did something like set up a party tent on the sidewalk. Or at least send the bagpipers over. So what's the verdict? Major points for dying the river, Chicago. And thanks for letting people build temporary shelters on the sidewalk, St Louis. Verdict: Tie.
Wednesday's actual StPD parade in Dogtown is a whole different story. It's very much in a neighborhood. And an Irish-settled neighborhood at that. Why is it called Dogtown? Well, when some Irish minors settled there they used dogs as security. Also, apparently during the 1904 World's Fair, a visiting tribe of natives from the Philippines kept sneaking over and stealing the Irishmen's dogs for food. Don't judge. You would've too if you'd seen the dogs I imagine the Irish were keeping.
Anyway, this parade feels much more like a whole neighborhood decided to come out of their houses and walk down the street throwing green beads. In fact, most of the "floats" are just 4 generations of Mc-whatevers showing off their finest Irish sweaters. Oh and there's also the creepy stepdancing children. We can't leave out the creepy children. Still, this event makes you somehow feel much more involved with the parade. Maybe it's the neighborhood. Maybe it's the people. But one thing is for sure, this is the parade to be at if you want to be drunk. There's a lot to do after the parade is done and because it's a work day, it just feels like you're being bad. People seem to go all out.
That part actually isn't too different from the Southside Parade in Chicago. It's, by far, the most disorderly. So much so that they don't even have one anymore! That's right, cancelled. After 2009 the Irish powers that be decided to not have it anymore because it was getting too out of hand. Wow. Didn't see that coming. So, this one's easy. Dogtown parade plus two for having it on actual StPD and plus 4 for actually having it. Negative 17 for not having one at all, Chicago. For shame.
Who would have thunk it? St Louis with a superior StPD celebration... It barely makes sense! But then again, does anything make sense when it comes to Irish tradition? Leprechauns, banshees, blarney stones, Darby O'Gill (best movie EVER), creepy baby stepdancers... I'm sure Chicago is pretty disappointed in itself for failing this very scientific matchup, but honestly, the river looks green year-round. I'm sorry... I really didn't want to be the one to say it. Please don't send the bagpipers.