The Arlington Heights July 4 parade has established itself as one of the largest in the Chicago area, with nearly 100 units.
Thousands of families fill both sides of the street along the 1.25-mile parade route for the annual tradition, which steps off at 10 a.m. from Dunton Avenue and Oakton Street, heading south on Dunton toward Recreation Park, site of Frontier Days.
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But what makes the parade sing is its multiple musical groups and bands.
While other parade organizers have to scour the area to add bands to their lineup, officials with Frontier Days have the luxury of ensembles coming to them.
For Carmella Lowth, now in her 16th year of organizing the parade, her biggest problem is spreading them out, knowing where to intersperse bands between other parade units.
Admittedly, it's a good problem to have.
"We look for their entertainment value, what they bring that will be different and add something new to the parade," Lowth says. "We love characters and other features that make them stand out."
She points to the popular Chuck-A-Roo and the Memories, an all-clown band that proved to be a big hit in recent years with the fans, as well as the Chicago Dixieland Band and Joe Walega's Happy Hearts polka band.
Of course, high school marching bands always make a statement, with their incoming freshmen making their debut appearance. Included this year are bands from Hersey, Prospect, Rolling Meadows and Wheeling high schools.
New this year will be the Jesse White Drum Corps appearing along with the Jesse White Tumblers, who traditionally anchor the parade and perform their high-flying acrobatics along the route.
"We didn't know about them, but they've been around for 46 years," Lowth said. "We think they'll be a nice addition with the tumblers."
A pair of marching bands from Minnesota also will make their local debut in this year's parade. The 120 members of the Patriots Marching Band bring their military style to the parade from St. Anthony Village High School. And the Litchfield Marching Dragons, a premiere band and drum line from one of the Minneapolis suburbs, will perform.
All of the floats and other entries in the parade will design their units around the theme: "America the beautiful, from sea to shining sea."
In keeping with that patriotic theme, Rep. David Harris, an Arlington Heights Republican, will serve as grand marshal. He is a former general of the Illinois National Guard and a retired major general in the Army.