La Grange Pet Parade returns to roots
First time in three years, parade held on usual day
By Steve Metsch
For the first time in three years, the La Grange Pet Parade will be held live on the first Saturday after Memorial Day.
That’s the traditional date for an annual event that began in 1947.
The coronavirus pandemic didn’t stop the parade, but it did impact how it was presented.
The parade was virtual in 2020, using video clips submitted by people and being shown on-line.
Last year, the parade was moved to September because earlier in the year organizers were not sure if they would have enough entries for the usual time of year.
This year’s parade is back where it belongs, kicking off at 9:30 a.m. June 4 in downtown La Grange.
Folks are thrilled, said Erin Smith, the parade’s executive director.
“September was great. We got nice feedback. But people are getting excited,” she said.
“It’s finally getting nice out. School’s almost out. When those two things coincide, it’s a nice way to kick off summer. People like having it back in June,” Smith said.
This year’s grand marshal is the Robert E. Coulter, Jr., American Legion Post No. 1941, based in La Grange, has ties to the theme, “Red, White, Blue in ’22.”
“They have been leading the color guard for 76 years, so we are honoring them as our grand marshal. It will be a little different because the grand marshals will be leading the parade, marching with the flag,” Smith said. “What a fitting way to honor the American Legion for helping us out for 76 years.”
There’s another connection to the first parade.
Dolores Jones, one of the honorary grand marshals, marched in the first parade in 1947 when she was 16 years old with her sister and their dog.
“It’s a great way to see it all come together 76 years later. It’s heartwarming and embodies what the parade really is,” Smith said.
Jones has 14 great-grandchildren, eight of whom will attend the parade, Smith said.
Who knows, maybe Evelyn Gonzalez will be in Jones’ shoes 76 years from now.
A student at St. Francis Xavier School, Gonzalez is the junior grand marshal. She got the honor by winning a coloring contest judged by the La Grange Art League.
The coloring contest was open to area children in grades kindergarten through sixth. Honorable mentions went to Trey Davidson, Claire Northam, Devin Mullick, Airla Molina and Grace Downs.
This is Jones’ first year as executive director, and she’s been busy.
“It’s kind of a wild position,” said Smith, a former second-grade teacher. “Definitely a learning year. I think it’s going well.”
There were 100 entries in the parade last year. That’s up to 105 on Saturday.
“We have a lot of local businesses sponsoring us. A lot of not-for-profits. Schools. I think it’s going to be great turnout and a nice variety of entries, which will be good,” Smith said.
There will be marching bands from Lyons Township High School, Nazareth Academy, La Grange School District 105, and Park Junior High.
Evil Burrito and The Pigs will again be playing music while riding on floats. “People love seeing a concert in the parade,” Smith said.
Children are advised to bring bags to collect candy that will be handed out.
The Pet Parade Carnival will again be held Friday through Sunday in downtown La Grange.
If you can’t attend the parade in person, you can follow the parade on a YouTube live stream. Visit www.lagrangepetparade.org for more information.
Donations to the parade can be made at the web site.
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