Lifelong Arlington Heights resident Vicki Boven can't remember missing an Independence Day parade in town.
"I see everybody I know, people I was born and raised with," the 51-year-old said. "And it's important to me to hang onto that."
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Thursday's star-spangled event was no exception. At a table outside the Uptown Cafe, a Miner Street landmark near the end of the parade route, Boven helped sell coffee, cold drinks and muffins to parade watchers.
It's become an annual tradition for the longtime restaurant patron and her sons, Logan and Tyler. Logan, 14, even brought his girlfriend, Kaela Drum.
Logan has worked the snack stand outside the Uptown Cafe for a few years now. He thinks it's a great way to enjoy the festivities.
"The view is good, and there's food all around me," he said.
The parade ran south down Dunton Avenue before turning east onto Miner. The area outside the Uptown Cafe was packed with people by 9:30 a.m., a good 45 minutes before the lengthy procession arrived in the neighborhood.
A trio of Arlington Heights police officers riding motorcycles led the parade, followed by military veterans, firefighters, more police officers, active-duty military personnel, marching bands and a smattering of politicians, including Gov. Pat Quinn.
The crowd applauded enthusiastically when anyone in a military uniform approached. Some were overcome emotionally by the sight.
"I always cry," one woman told a friend as she dabbed at her eyes.
"Me, too," the friend responded.
Inside the restaurant, patrons enjoyed the parade in air-conditioned comfort. Owner Georgia Avgeris and her staff wore patriotic colors to celebrate the holiday.
Out on the sidewalk, Christine Hecht watched the marchers with her 8-year-old son, Aiden. Both dyed their hair red, white and blue for the occasion.
"We always do something, and we always sit here by Georgia's," Hecht said.
She's definitely not alone.