More than 100 units line up for Arlington Heights parade
Known to be one of the largest parades in the area with more than 100 units, this year's Fourth of July parade in Arlington Heights boasts more bands and musical groups than ever, giving its volunteer organizers an unusual problem -- how to fit them all in.
For starters, the marching bands from all six Northwest Suburban High School District 214 schools will play -- Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove, Hersey, Prospect, Rolling Meadows and Wheeling.
They also have an assortment of novelty groups returning, including the Hornets Drum & Bugle Corps from Chicago, the Banjo Buddies, the Prairie Brass Band, Clan McAlpine Pipes & Drums, the Arlington Heights Community Band, the Crazy Clown band and Chuck-A-Roo and the Fabulous Memories band.
Carmella Lowth of Arlington Heights has led the parade committee for more than 20 years. She and her team of organizers started meeting at the end of February to design the parade route and its stations for marshals, select judges for the reviewing stand, and confirm Bill Peery and Audrey Olson as the parade commentators.
The biggest job is to review the contracts with groups applying to be in the parade and then work out where to place them in the lineup.
"You have to mix it up. We try to place a band every 10 units or so, but it gets tricky," Lowth says. "You can't have horses near music and you can't have clowns near horses. The bands don't want to be near other floats that feature music and then you have to consider the units leaving to go to other parades."
Every year, it somehow comes together and gives the throngs of parade-watchers a parade to remember.
Some of the other highlights featured in this year's parade include a replica of the original Meijer truck that transported groceries in Michigan. The 1936 Chevy stake truck reflects the history of Meijer Inc., which was founded by Hendrik Meijer, a Dutch immigrant, and his 14-year-old son, Frederik. The chain now has 246 stores, including the one in Rolling Meadows, which is sponsoring the parade entry.
The parade also will feature some playful mascots, including Skates of the Chicago Wolves, fresh from their AHL Western Conference run, and Coop the Boomer from the Schaumburg Boomers.
Look for horses and knights from Medieval Times to look magnificent in the parade. The Jesse White Tumblers will perform near the end, before taking their highflying routines to Recreation Park and the Frontier Days fairgrounds, where they will do further performances.
As far as dignitaries, Dick Duchossois, Arlington Park chairman emeritus, will ride in the parade, while Jim and Mindy Elgas, publishers of the Arlington Almanac, will be grand marshals.
The actual theme of the parade is "Hats Off to America," and community groups are working to interpret the theme in their floats and costumes.
"It's awesome," Lowth says. "The creativity that they come up with every year is amazing."
Prizes are given out to first- and second-place winners for creativity and theme, to commercial entries and those from noncommercial groups. Winners are recognized at the end of the parade from the reviewing stand.