LA GRANGE – Nancy Cummings moved to La Grange from Chicago with her husband on a certain weekend years ago. It was Pet Parade weekend.
They were trying to get to the store for groceries and police redirected them from the parade route.
“Hours later, we’re on our way back and this parade is still going on,” Cummings said. “Where did we move? What is going on? People are marching with their pets in the parade.”
Now, Cummings is executive director of the La Grange Business Association (LGBA), and the Pet Parade is usually the first thing people from other towns bring up when they meet her. She loves watching the parade from the sidewalk every year, and each of her three kids have marched in it.
This year’s parade, the 67th annual, starts at 9:30 a.m. June 1 at Cossitt Avenue and La Grange Road and heads toward the train tracks before turning left down Burlington Avenue toward Lyons Township High School’s North Campus.
“There isn’t a bad place to watch it from quite honestly,” said Linda Yates, a board member for Pets and Pals Charities Ltd., which raises money for the parade.
Ed Breen started the parade because he thought La Grange should have one and wanted to involve kids. He was highly successful. Over the years, the parade has become an institution, being televised on WGN-TV for a number of years and attracting celebrity guests, like actress Debbie Reynolds and actor Guy Williams, who played the lead on the television show “Zorro.”
And though it’s an event based on tradition, this year’s parade features a number of firsts.
Chicago Blackhawks’ national anthem singer Jim Cornelison will highlight a new opening ceremony, which will honor first responders and veterans, including eight local veterans. World War II veterans from Honor Flight Chicago will serve as the parade’s grand marshals, joined for the first time by a junior grand marshal: Saint Francis Xavier fifth-grader Molly McElligott, who won a contest to come up with the parade’s theme – “Miles of Smiles on Parade” – and will help lead the parade.
McElligott’s favorite part of the parade, the Jesse White Tumblers, are back this year, as is Chicago’s South Shore Drill team. Also in the parade lineup are Bennie the Bull (with the Park District of La Grange), Miss Tall Chicago 2013, Blackhawks’ mascot Tommy Hawk and the Medinah Flying Carpets. All in all, the parade will feature 105 different floats or groups.
It will also include more than $2,200 in contests and prizes, with more chances for fun and games afterward. The Ahhh! La Grange Carnival, presented by the LGBA, will feature thrill rides and games, live music and other entertainers. Located on Harris Avenue between La Grange Road and Ashland Avenue, the Carnival will also offer a beer garden and food area with fare from La Grange restaurants in addition to traditional carnival treats.
Proceeds from the carnival helps fund free annual public events such as the West End Art Festival, the Halloween Walk & Fall Festival and Hometown Holiday.