By JESSICA KIM COHEN
Once again this year, in celebration of July 4th, Hyde Parkers in the annual 4th on 53rd Parade will march from Hyde Park Bank to Nichols Park.
“It’s just a wonderful thing to do on July 4th,” Stephanie Franklin, president of the Nichols Park Advisory Council and event chair, said. “It is on the 4th of July, not the weekend before or the weekend after, or anything like that. It’s on the 4th, every year. People march and wave and smile. There are not supposed to be any watchers, but if there are, they wave and smile, too.”
The first 4th on 53rd Parade, in 1992, began as a proposal at a retreat for the Ad Hoc Committee on 53rd St. While many chose to address issues like parking and crime, Irene Sherr, Rebecca Janowitz and Nancy Stanek decided to focus on “fun and games.”
“We thought of a parade, and it sounded like a good idea, since it was something we had not done before in Hyde Park,” Stanek, parade coordinator and owner of Toys Et Cetera, 1502 E. 53rd St., said.
Aiming to promote 53rd and Hyde Park businesses, they chose to include a picnic section at Nichols Park.
“The reason Nichols Park got involved is because the park was new,” Franklin said. “The parade had to end somewhere, so we had the idea to walk there, to a park, that was new. And it’s in the geographic center of Hyde Park!”
At Nichols Park, marchers are invited to stay for arts and crafts, performances and games, including a petting zoo, face painting and a demonstration by Fitzgerald’s Martial Arts. Children’s games include a watermelon ‘seed spit’ headed by Girl Scouts and a ‘mummy wrap’ headed by AYSO.
“For the mummy wrap, kids adopt their own rules and wrap each other up using paper,” Franklin said. “They wrap each other up like a mummy, and then they break free. They think it’s a riot.”
The event has grown since its first year.
“The very, very, very first year it was much smaller. Really about 200 people walking on the street,” said Stanek. “Now, people are lining up on the street, watching people go by.”
Those interested in attending the parade should gather in the lot south of the Hyde Park Bank between 10 and 11 a.m. The march continues south on Lake Park, east on 55th Street, north on South Hyde Park Boulevard and west on 53rd Street to Nichols Park.
Volunteers are still needed for this year’s celebration. Those interested in being decorators, balloon blowers, banner carriers, face painters or parade marshals, or in staffing the registration table or volunteering for cleanup should contact Stephanie Franklin by calling 773-955-3622. The committee is also looking for additional activities, such as a magician and someone to make balloon animals.