Diversity of Oak Park on display in Fourth parade
The Lakeside Pride Freedom Band practices in the WGN studio parking lot for the Chicago Pride parade Saturday, June 23rd. The band will also perform in the Oak Park Independence Day Parade. | Eric Davis ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 29, 2012 4:50PM
You could call it a “Mobile Day in Our Village.”
Oak Park’s annual Fourth of July parade has become not just an expression of pride in America, but a reflection of pride in the diversity America was created to foster.
“The many dimensions of diversity in Oak Park” will be on display Wednesday, said Community Relations Director Cedric Melton, who’s responsible for supervising the parade. “True to Oak Park, there will be a variety of things in the parade.”
The parade is effectively the reverse of the annual Day in Our Village, which involves large crowds of people walking past those reflecting the many and varied aspects of Oak Park life. On the Fourth, village residents get to sit down and watch the village’s numerous interest groups and organizations march — and dance and skate — past.
Melton said he’s most anticipating the sight of hundreds of residents lining each street, in lawn chairs and sun hats, hold children and cheering their neighbors.
“The biggest thrill for me is seeing the faces along the parade route,” he said. “The diversity of Oak Park (on display).”
Melton said he expects the parade to the best in the past several years. It certainly will be the biggest.
“It’s the largest we’ve had since I’ve been the (parade) coordinator,” Melton said.
The parade will feature 50 entries, running the gamut from full-blown floats to people in pickup trucks, as well as Segway transporters and 25 women roller skating to disco music.
Melton said he’s also very excited that his year there will be an actual marching band.
“I’ve actually received calls from people saying they’d like to see a band this year,” he said.
Melton said the well-known Freedom Marching band, which performed Sunday at Chicago’s huge Gay Pride parade and celebration, will march in Oak Park’s parade next.
Instituted in 1979, the Freedom Marching Band, Melton said, has become a point of pride in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.
And true to Oak Park, political and social activism groups will be represented, including the Village Manager’s Association and OPLAGA, the Oak Park Lesbian and Gay Association.
The Park District of Oak Park, which turned 100 in April, will have the biggest float, at nearly 30 feet long. It’s being built especially for the parade by a Chicago firm.
“It’ll have a big birthday cake on it,” said the park district’s Diane Stanke.
Not content to merely ride in a motor vehicle, some of the Oak Park-River Forest High School Huskie football players will be pushing one, Melton said.
“An inoperative jeep,” he said with a chuckle.
As for Melton, he’ll enjoy the parade from his usual vantage point.
“Somewhere behind the scenes, where I usually am, making sure everything happens,” he said.
The parade steps off at 10 a.m. from Longfellow Park on the 600 block of Ridgeland Avenue south of Adams Street. Marchers will proceed north on Ridgeland to Augusta Street, then turn east to the conclusion by Whittier Elementary School on the 700 block of North Harvey Avenue.