Green Lights on a Cold Night

Saint Patrick's Day is the holiday when it seems like almost everyone lays claim to Irish heritage and our American melting pot identity surfaces perhaps more than any other day of the year. Crown Point's historic square came alive last night as it has countless times in the past this time for a parade of lights to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Vendors gathered around the square before the parade commenced, selling everything from hot cocoa to elephant ears. Among the vendors were such familiar names as El Ranchito and Abuelo's.

Before starting, music blasted around the square, giving everyone a way to get warmer while the sun set and night approached – dancing in the streets! Represented in the parade were many local businesses and community-oriented organizations. The nearby firehouse offered a corned beef and cabbage meal and Carriage Court Pizza had a special on their Reuben pizza.

Events like this are rarely just about delicious food, tempting smells, flashing lights, and crazy hair accessories. They're about the men who were devoted enough to don kilts to play the bagpipes. They're about the people who brave the winter that's persisted into March. They're for the Irish at heart. They're for the kids who put on as much green as they could to avoid a pinch from their family members. They're about having fun – as a family, as a group of friends, as a couple, and with the community at large. This year, especially, it was about a chance to bid farewell to this rough winter and look forward to the green spring ahead. And boy, was there some green out last night!

"Welcome to our very beautiful downtown. Are we warm enough tonight? If you really yell pretty loud, we can raise the temperature about four degrees. Are we having a good time? Welcome. This is our annual Saint Patrick's night time parade, the only one in the Midwest! We've got great folks and a great night! It's going to be dry, at least," Mayor Dave Uran welcomed the crowd, brightening spirits on the chilly night.

This wasn't the first time Crown Point has been home to this parade and celebration and it's unlikely to be its last time. People of all ages gathered around the old courthouse. Children dove for candy, adults chased their kids, and everyone watched in wonder as the floats drove by. So many organizations from within the community – and beyond its reach in Illinois – showed support for the celebration, coming out to join the parade festivities. There were Model As, dancing horses, cheerleaders, two groups of bagpipers, tiny cars, the usual sirens and lights from emergency vehicles, and many wonderfully decorated floats dressed in green and adorned with leprechauns, pots of gold, and the green, white, and orange of Irish flags!

For those of us who braved the cold and – to look on the bright side like Mayor Uran – dry night, Monday night's St. Patrick's Parade was a success. The colors were beautiful, the parade goers were happy to see the displays of pride, and we all bonded in our chilliness.

I, for one, found myself contemplating how seldom you see so many men walking – or marching! – in kilts these days, how fantastic it must be for the teenage girls who sported neon green mesh light up dread locks in headband form, and how happy toddlers get when their dad hoists them onto his shoulders. It's not often enough that we gather together to commiserate and share experiences with those around us, but sometimes we're lucky enough to have it forced upon us during long gaps in the parade.

Thank goodness for hot cocoa to keep us warm, bagpipe music to keep us moving, and a whole lot of green to remind us spring is indeed on its way!

Click here to view more photos from the parade!