Thousands gather to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in Rockford - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Thousands gather to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in Rockford

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ROCKFORD (WREX) -

The bag pipes, the drums, the interesting choices in clothing and a little green beer could only mean one thing.

"Why do you like saint Patrick's day? Because I'm Irish," Nicholas Ziener says. 

Ziener is just one of many others in the Forest City who get to celebrate their Irish heritage by marching in Rockford's St. Patrick's Day Parade.

"Mayor Bob McGaw back in 1977, 1978, I can't remember exactly,  asked me to see if I could get some of my Irish friends and form a club," Tom Lorden says.  

Out of that club came Rockford's first St. Patrick's Day parade which Lorden says he helped organize. And over the past 40 years, he's watched it flourish.  

"I'm just amazed," he says. "I never believed it could be this way." 

This weekend, he walked alongside other Irish men and women including Michael Ziener. Ziener says he grew up in Rockford and has marched in the parade since he 3-years-old. 

"It always used to rain, so we could never wear our green," Ziener says. "We would be wearing out Chicago Bears coats, but it's been a fantastic day today." 

Now, he says he gets to share that experience with his own son decades later.  

"I find that not only my Irish heritage is important but I try to teach my son about his heritage," he says. "I just graduated from the University of Norte Dame so the Irish flows through my veins."

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