CHICAGO (AP) _ President Bush marched through a sea of green Saturday in a St. Patrick's Day parade that mixed politicking with a tribute to the fallen from Sept. 11.
Cheers and ``thumbs up'' signs from an enthusiastic crowd packed eight- and nine-deep greeted Bush, who waved and blew kisses and shook hands with fire officials. Signs along the downtown route read ``Welcome President Bush. We are Proud Americans.'' U.S. and Irish Republic flags were displayed.
Bush got out of the presidential limousine and walked a few blocks, flanked by GOP Gov. George Ryan and Democratic Mayor Richard M. Daley.
The participation of the Republican president came in advance of Tuesday's statewide primary that features hotly contested GOP races for governor and U.S. Senate. Farther back among the marchers were candidates hoping to drum up support from last-minute voters.
Bush later had lunch with Daley and Ryan, who is not seeking re-election, at a restaurant and was completing the daylong trip by returning to the presidential retreat at Camp David in Maryland.
Chicago goes all out for St. Patrick's Day, dyeing the Chicago River green. Bush walked over shamrocks painted on the asphalt along the parade route and was serenaded by a group of bagpiper players.
The parade paid tribute to the Rev. Mychal Judge, the Catholic chaplain of the New York City Fire Department who died in the attacks on the World Trade Center. Judge was named the parade's grand marshal _ the first time the honor has been bestowed posthumously.
When the lead float honoring Judge arrived at the reviewing stand, Bush, Ryan and Daley paused while a bagpipe band played ``Amazing Grace.'' The crowd then chanted ``USA, USA.''
Just ahead of Bush among the marchers were New York and Chicago police and firefighters, a tribute to those who aided in the rescue and recovery after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Some in the crowd said they attended the parade to show their support for the president and his policies.
``I'm a huge fan. I really think he's been doing the right things with our economy and with terrorism,'' said Patricia Dodds, 41, of Bartlett, Ill. ``I've never been more politically involved or interested as since he's been president.''
Jim Gross, 42, of Arlington Heights, Ill., said Bush's appearance was one of the reasons he came with his wife.
``It's to show we're going to stand up for what's right. We came to show him we're standing behind him,'' Gross said.