By YASMINE LAASRAOUI
Since a community retreat examining crime, parking and business on 53rd street in March of 1992 inspired the idea, the Old Fashioned 4th of July Celebration, Fourth on 53rd, has become a Hyde Park annual tradition. Ringing in its 21st year, the parade has been attended by the community’s diverse residents, including then-Sen. Barack Obama and House Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25), whose dual participation as Uncle Sam and grand marshal is expected again this year.
The parade, marching bands, family activities and picnic were initiated by HyPa’s Irene Sherr, special assistant for legal affairs at the Cook Country Judicial Advisory Council Rebecca Janowitz, and Toys Et Cetera owner Nancy Stanek. With the initial backing of University of Chicago’s Office of Community Affairs, the South East Chicago Commission and the Fourth Ward Alderman’s Office, these three Hyde Parkers created a lasting tradition.
The South East Chicago Commission still plays an integral administrative role at the parade. The “magical” family friendly event, according to the commission’s Wendy Walker Williams, “provides a really unique opportunity for anybody and everybody.”
Responding to the parade’s motto, “everyone marches, nobody watches,” Chairwoman of the Nichols Park Advisory Council Stephanie Franklin enthusiastically attributes the parade’s long-lived celebration and high attendance to the entertainment provided by the event’s volunteers. “Its lots of fun,” Franklin said, “and you’re welcome to drop by at any section of the parade!”
This year the parade will be hosting neighborhood groups such as the Hyde Park Irregulars and a musical Chamber of Commerce trolley. A patriotic sing-a-long will be led by The Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company.
A variety of free family activities will be held in Nichols Park as part of the festivities. The field house will not be open to the public this year, however children will have the opportunity to participate in a variety of games. Face painting, jumping jacks and a petting zoo will be among the featured activities. Food and drink will be available for purchase in Nichols Park and the Murray School yard.
Those planning on joining the march should assemble in the lot of the Hyde Park Bank between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. Banner-carrying volunteers leading parade sections should arrive at 9:30 a.m. Kicking off at 11 a.m., the parade will head south on Lake Park Avenue, east on 55th Street, north on Hyde Park Boulevard, and west into Nichols Park.
Parade and park volunteers are still needed for this year’s Independence Day celebrations. Balloon blowers, park and bike decorators, game operators, information booth helpers and other volunteers are needed. Those interested can call Stephanie Franklin at 773-955-3622.