It was a sunny morning on a summer holiday weekend in 1995, lounging in my then apartment on Hyde Park Boulevard and trying to decide what to do with my rare day off when I heard a siren. An odd siren. It sounded. Then stopped. Then sounded again. And very slowly got closer. So, I decided to wander out and see what what was going on--and let whimsy be my guide.
Good thing I was ready for whimsy for coming up the boulevard was a parade--a homegrown, grassroots, Everybody Marches, Nobody Watches, Hyde Park kind of parade. Thanks to the Nichols Park Advisory Council (and especially Betsy Ross/Stephanie Franklin along with many others), a great new community tradition had grown while I was gone--4th on 53rd.
Hundreds of kids in decorated bikes and balloon-laden strollers, lawn bowlers in crisp white, equestrians, a van with a sign advocating the legalization of marijuana, Kiwanis, La Leche League, politicians in costumes. Since then, it's grown into a "real" parade, though it still has that ramshackle disorderly happy walk through Hyde Park feel.
In 2005, I went down to the corner of 53rd and Hyde Park to capture the whole parade.
Of course, it still starts with the fire truck, just like a real parade.
There are other things that connect it to all the other parades in all the other American towns on the 4th
-- people with banners.
There are high school girls performing steps.
There are even occasionally floats-- Here's the Hyde Park Garden Fair.
And there are wonderful horses every year--my favorite!
And these days there are bands!
Bands in uniforms and and great coordinated chest thumping drums.
Dixieland bands to put pep in your step
Ad hoc bands (the first kind to show up in the parade)
And bagpipe bands
And it wouldn't be a Chicago parade without politicians
But most of all it's hundreds of children and parents (and pets) strolling along, intermingled with everyone else, having a great time, heading toward music and games at Nichols Park:
I read on May 26, 2010, in the Chicago Weekly, that Susan Campbell of the University of Chicago said that
Her office is partnering with the Southeast Chicago Commission and the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce to plan events like a July 4th neighborhood fair at Nichols Park, which is intended to “highlight businesses that have stayed in Hyde Park.”