PLAINFIELD – Everybody is Irish at a St. Patrick’s Day parade, and the one in Plainfield on Sunday was no exception.
Even if the red hair wasn’t natural, or the fuzzy beards and plastic moustaches were fake, no one took notice.
One man obviously hung onto his green plaid sports coat just for a special occasion such as this – the most famous of Irish holidays.
Fourteen-year-old Matthew Pierson, a Plainfield resident of Irish descent, was decked out as a leprechaun in a green hat and red beard to watch the parade with his family.
Occasionally, he asked a wandering soul whether he or she might know where his pot of gold would be. The family comes every year to the Plainfield Hometown Irish Parade, said his mom, Beth Pierson, because they are Irish for one thing.
“It’s good old-fashioned family fun,” she said.
They brought chairs and blankets to mark their spot earlier in the day and then walked around to keep warm in the brisk but sunny air.
After the parade, the family traditionally heads over to Fox’s Restaurant & Pub for a bite to eat and to listen to some more Irish music.
“We have an excellent day for a parade today,” parade announcer Paul Faye boomed over the microphone.
The Plainfield Fire Protection District, sirens blaring and horns honking, kicked off the lineup along Lockport Street. Kids and family members waved from inside the truck, while others tossed candy to those lined up along the barricades.
Plainfield Mayor Mike Collins was one of the first entries in the parade, as were the Knights of Columbus, complete with their own walking and waving St. Patrick.
Irish Parade Princess Sarah Cousins also was in attendance.
Kids excitedly grabbed for candy off the street or hollered for a T-shirt to be tossed to them. Werk Force Brewing Co. handed out samples of green beer to adults and students from Your Performing Arts Center in Plainfield in costume, singing and dancing to promote their upcoming performance of the “Lion King Jr. Experience.”
Parade committee members were excited that they had more entertainment participants than in years past, especially for their 15th annual parade, Debbie Olsen said.
Olsen and her neighbors, who are members of the Village Preservation Association of Plainfield, started the parade 16 years ago with one float around the block in their neighborhood on the east side of Interstate 59.
The event grew for a few years in a row, more and more people coming out to watch. Now it has grown to include 66 entries this year with an expected turnout of between 5,000 and 8,000
The only thing missing this year was a parade marshal, Olsen said. It just didn’t work out.
But she and fellow committee member Susie Carlman are setting their sights high and aiming for actress Melissa McCarthy, an Irish woman and former Plainfield resident, to be leading the 2018 parade.
Although the parade kicked off at 1 p.m. from Plainfield High School – Central Campus, the streets started filling up as early as 11 a.m.
Kate Johnson and her daughter, Riley Johnson, had their spot picked out early. Riley, 10, had on a “Kiss Me I’m Irish” T-shirt to show off their heritage. They’ve been coming together for nine years, Kate said.
“It’s a tradition,” Kate said. “I came even when I was in high school.”