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clock Mar 11, 2007 9:52 pm US/Central

Pray, Parade and Party At South Side Irish Parade

Thousands Heed The Call of The Bagpipes and Become Irish For A Day

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Mike Puccinelli

(CBS) CHICAGO Crowds gathered hours in advance for the annual South Side Irish Parade in Chicago's Beverly neighborhood on Sunday.

Even Brits found themselves marching to the beat of a different drummer, as CBS 2's Mike Puccinelli reports.

And that's a tall order because on the South Side during the parade, the order of the day is loud and proud.

And nothing was better looking on this Sunday than the weather. CBS 2's Joe Ahern, president and general manager, said the luck of the Irish appeared to be shining down from on high.

"God blessed us today with fabulous weather," he said. "We want to thank Ed Curran who's on the float. This is our way to give back to the community and say thanks for watching Channel 2."

As parade goers give thanks for a tradition started by a few dozen kids that's become one of the largest St. Patrick's Day parades outside of Dublin.

"It's heritage, it's roots. Both my mother and father are from Ireland and they wouldn't even be able to do this when they first came out," said parade reveler Pat Rohan.

The motto of the event was pray, parade and party. The parade stepped off at noon, but the celebration started several hours earlier with a mass at St. Cajetan Church with songs, readings and, of course, bagpipes.

Mike Stanton with the Beverly Area Planning Association said, �It's a day of kind of showing your Irish pride, but also, I think, it's a day of showing community and a sense of community. You see people's families coming from all over the metropolitan area, coming back home.�

The tradition started in 1979 with a little walk that assembled 17 kids from the Beverly neighborhood.

Annie Coakley, one of the organizers, was a 2-year-old girl in that first group. �I don't really remember life without the parade so there's that. It's nothing that we lay claim to. It's just a great thing that my family and our neighbors started,� Coakley said.

This year the parade's grand marshal was the Beverly Breast Cancer Walk, which has been dedicated to saving lives for the last eight years.

�The main message would be is just that we're out there and we can bring about breast cancer awareness and just to be the grand marshal and to be able to be exposed. People know what we are,� said breast cancer survivor Carol Moriarty.

For those of you who missed it, CBS 2 will broadcast the South Side Irish Parade on Friday at 9 a.m. and again on March 19 at 12:35 a.m. Susan Carlson and Mike Flannery host.

Rafael Romo contributed to this report.

(© MMVII, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

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