Old St. Pat’s World’s Largest Block Party ends after 35 years

The church said the decision came down to competition from the changing summer festival scene in Chicago.

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Chicagoans have been packing the fest known as Old St. Pat’s World’s Largest Block Party since 1984.

Chicagoans have been packing the fest known as Old St. Pat’s World’s Largest Block Party since 1984.

Sun-Times file photo

A Chicago tradition has fallen victim to competition from the summer festival market.

The World’s Largest Block Party, hosted by Old St. Pat’s, will not take place this year. The West Loop church has held the event for the past 35 years.

The Rev. Tom Hurley, the church’s pastor, said the decision came down to the changing summer festival scene in Chicago.

“Today, however, Old St. Pat’s is a much different place than it was 35 years ago and the city, its demographic landscape and the summer event environment is much different and much more difficult for us to navigate,” Hurley said. “There is more competition today than ever before during the summer months in Chicago.”

That includes music festival behemoths like Lollapalooza and Pitchfork, as well as smaller events celebrating food and film and everything in between.

Moving forward, Old St. Pat’s plans to host other events, starting with a St. Patrick’s Day-themed block party, Shamrock’n the Block, on March 14 on Desplaines Street in front of the church. More details are forthcoming.

World’s Largest Block Party started as a fundraiser for Old St. Pat’s, which was in disrepair and had “zero resources” 36 years ago, Hurley said.

Signs of trouble for the block party showed up in 2017, when the festival returned to its original location in the West Loop after a two-year stint at the University of Illinois Chicago campus. The block party was scaled down with only one parking lot instead of two, a significantly lower entry fee and smaller local bands. It also became more family-oriented with a “kid zone,” which included a bounce house, face painting and carnival games.

Hurley will be the grand marshal in the city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which takes place March 14 on Columbus Drive.

“I see it not as a personal honor for me, but more importantly as a way to celebrate the life of Old St. Pat’s,” Hurley said.

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