The Fourth of July – A Look at Celebrations in Two Communities

Central Street Neighbors, Photo: Stephanie Colburn

Many years ago, and for many years, our family, my husband and children, lived a block from the Evanston, IL 4thof July Parade route.  The holiday and the parade became very important to us in those years as we set out chairs near the street where the parade would pass by, for our friends and family and often, visitors from other cities.  We always entertained following the parade and went to the fireworks later in the evening.  The weather for that date was unpredictable.  Some years it was freezing and we could not get warm and other years, we roasted with temperatures near 100 and could not cool off, and occasionally, it rained.  We moved to a nearby community more than 20 years ago and the parade faded into the background until this year, 2019.

Honor guard, Evanston, Photo: Kelly Allen

“A Salute to Community Volunteers” was the theme for this year’s parade.  An extensive program listed information about the parade and the winners of competitions in several categories in addition to the list of parade participants and messages from organizers and others important to the city and the parade.  Included was, “A Brief History of the 4th of July” with the concluding paragraph, “While celebrations on July 4th during the American Revolution were modest, after the war ended in 1783 the 4th of July became a holiday in many places.  The celebrations included speeches, military events, parades and fireworks.  To this day the Fourth of July is the most patriotic holiday celebrated in the United States.” Read more

Evanston Parade, Bag Pipers from Chicago, Photo: Stephanie Colburn

I parked my car as close to the parade as I could which was quite far away.  Nearby streets were packed with cars.  The weather was clear, sunny, and close to 90. I walked along impressed by the masses of people lined along the street, cheerfully chatting with one another and enjoying the spirit of the day.  This moment of shared community was moving and inspiring to me. 

Flags of Rotary International, Photo: Stephanie Colburn
Penny-farthing, Evanston, Photo: Stephanie Colburn

The parade began – Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts, City of Evanston Trustees, Parade Trustees, marching bands, dancing horses, antique cars, community bands, tumblers, penny-farthing performers, floats  and banners from the Public Library, charitable organizations, local politicians, and a significant representation of Evanston Township High School (ETHS) including attending alumni plus much more comprised the 82 entries which ended with the Streets and Sanitation trucks cleaning the littered street.

Horse dancing on Central Street, Photo: Kelly Allen
ETHS Class of 1979 Banner, Photo: Kelly Allen

“History of the Evanston 4th of July Association

In 1921, after a child was injured while setting off fireworks, the North End Mother’s Club formed the North Evanston 4th of July association to provide a full fay of safe, supervised, constructive activities for children each year.

In 1980, the Association changed its name to the “Evanston Fourth of July Association,” expanding its scope to include all of Evanston.

Evanston Parade, Photo: Stephanie Colburn

The Association’s mission has since expanded to include sponsoring and supporting holiday, family-oriented entertainment events throughout the summer, such as Evanston Starlight Concerts series – free concerts held at Dawes and James park.

Unlike most Independence Day celebrations in other cities, the festivities in Evanston are produced entirely by the all-volunteer, privately funded Evanston Fourth of July Association. No tax dollars are used for the actual production of the sports activities, parade, twilight band concert or fireworks. We are able to provide a top-rated program every year through individual donations and support from our generous local businesses and foundations.”

Riding in the parade along Central Street, Photo: Stephanie Colburn

In another part of the country, in California, journalist, Steve Cooper shared his experience on a perfect day in Ranch Santa Fe, the 38thyear of the 4thof July Parade. Steve’s story and photos follow:

In the community of Rancho Santa Fe, California, not far from San Diego’s Del Mar Racetrack, the annual 4th of July Parade & Picnic is what one might expect for a “traditional” small town celebration, albeit updated for 2019. In a town known for its racehorses and golf courses, there were plenty of equestrians and decorated golf cart floats. But there were also the fire trucks, vintage cars, and children on bikes, on scooters, and in wagons. We got to see the Parade Princess and local city, state, and federal politicians, too.

Homecoming Princess

Following the parade, a picnic and concert followed in the town park. Hot dogs, hamburgers, veggie burgers, ice cream, and popsicles were enjoyed by all, as the kids danced to the live music. A nice way to enjoy the 75-degree weather as we waited for the sun to set and the fireworks to begin.

Waving to the riders

Rancho Santa Fe

This was sponsored by the Rancho Santa Fe Association. 

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