Schaumburg's Septemberfest parade Monday signaled the unofficial end to summer, and it seemed as if the entire community came out to bask in the fun one last time.
Thousands of families lined the 2-mile route down Summit Drive, cheering the high school bands and veterans who marched, as well as the many community organizations, Scouts and teams that formed parade entries.
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"We all come out for it," said Karen Gebbeken of Schaumburg. "You get to see all the kids in the parade."
The Schaumburg Park District -- with its 50 years of offering "fun and recreation" to local residents -- earned the role of grand marshal.
"It was an easy call, especially since we work so closely together," said Roxane Benvenuti, special events coordinator for the village of Schaumburg.
Park commissioners walked the parade route handing out candy alongside their float. Decked out with a giant cake and candles, and dotted with potted mums and a park bench, the float eventually won as best commercial/professional entry.
The park district's Spring Valley Nature Center and Heritage Farm observed another milestone: 30 years of volunteering. Their float featured a "Wizard of Oz" theme, with a barn, picket fence and characters dressed in period costumes.
Many of the park district's programs formed their own units, including the Barracuda swim team, the gymnastics students and the Schaumburg Expressions Dance troupe.
Katherine Ropiak of Palatine ran out to embrace one of the dance instructors, Ginnie Meyer. "Miss Ginnie" recently joined the Schaumburg Park District after teaching nearly 20 years for the Elk Grove Park District.
"She taught me to dance when I was 4 years old," said Ropiak, a Schaumburg native and Conant High School graduate. "It's so great to see her."
While community organizations drove the parade, there were some emotional side plots going on as well.
Schaumburg Trustee George Dunham rode on the village's float. He is recovering from surgery and some complications that required him to be sidelined for the last two months.
"I'm just glad to be out of the house," Dunham quipped.
Kevin Miller, Schaumburg High School band director, walked with his 245-member Marching Saxons, which won the award for best high school band. He recently announced he would be retiring at the end of the school year, making this his last Septemberfest parade.
"It's tough," Miller said. "I'm going to miss all this energy."
The parade also welcomed the return of Sen. Mark Kirk to the festivities. He rode in a convertible, waving to the crowd. He began appearing publicly in May after more than a year's worth of rehabilitation from a major stroke he suffered last year.
Parade winners also included Maggo the Clown, named best professional clown, and Grupo Folklorico Quetzal as best dance group. Civil Air Patrol -- Woodfield won best junior/senior color guard, the Schaumburg Township District Library took top honors for best amateur float and Chuck-a-Roo All Clown Band was named the best adult band.