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Pet parade, carnival kick off summer fun

Rex the dog watches as the Park Junior High School band performs during the 2018 La Grange Pet Parade. The 73rd annual event begins at 9:30 a.m. June 1 at Cossitt Avenue and LaGrange Road.
Rex the dog watches as the Park Junior High School band performs during the 2018 La Grange Pet Parade. The 73rd annual event begins at 9:30 a.m. June 1 at Cossitt Avenue and LaGrange Road.

LA GRANGE – The beloved La Grange Pet Parade will kick off the summer season for the 73rd year in a row, taking place on the second day of the town’s cotton candy-filled carnival.

Beginning May 31, the La Grange Carnival will be on Harris Avenue between Ashland Avenue and La Grange Road. The event will feature food and drink tents, continuous live music on stage and amusement rides. Discount and unlimited ride specials will be available at select times throughout the weekend.

The most popular event of the carnival, the Pet Parade, will kick off the second day of the festivities.

Sponsored by Pet Parade Charities, the parade showcases everything from children walking their pets to marching bands, floats and entertainment groups.

Susan Breen, Pet Parade chairman, said the event began with both community and business interests in mind.

“The goal was twofold: to bring attention to the businesses in La Grange and to have a fun event for the kids in all the neighboring towns,” Breen said.

Bringing attention to local small businesses is something the parade excels at, and one of the driving forces behind that exposure is sponsorships.

“[The parade] promotes local businesses through its sponsorships and not-for-profits through their entry in the parade,” Breen said. “It supports animal rescue groups and animal shelters in the area, as well as education and proper care and selection of pets.”

In a larger sense, the entire La Grange Carnival becomes a hub of support for the town’s local businesses, from the summer art project and farmers market to the West End Arts Festival, the Halloween Walk and Hometown Holiday.

One of the small ways the carnival helps business owners is through ticket sales, said Nancy Cummings, executive director of the La Grange Business Association.

“Our local business owners and members of the LGBA work the ticket booth,” Cummings said. “Part of the proceeds will help benefit the LGBA, which does a lot of marketing initiatives and educational, promotional opportunities for the local businesses.”

Aside from its positive effect on local businesses, the carnival promotes and strengthens the community, providing attendees a destination to mingle and relax.

“It’s really a gathering spot for the community,” Cummings said. “It’s one of the biggest block parties in the area, with neighbors meeting neighbors and reconnecting with people they maybe haven’t seen throughout the winter months. Because it’s always the same time every year, it even becomes a family tradition for generations. Kids grew up experiencing it and now come back with their own children.”

A centerpiece of the weekend is live music, and one of the prime Saturday night bands, Anthem, will return this year to provide rock classics. Jim Cairo, a member of the group and Willowbrook native, said he’s looking forward to taking the stage again.

“The carnival is such a positive event. It’s so lively,” Cairo said. “The crowd doesn’t get any better, and they’re always friendly. With the big beer tent and food vendors, [La Grange] really does a nice job.”

Perhaps above all else, the carnival’s live music stage provides the perfect, summer atmosphere that carnivalgoers tired of winter are craving.

“The live music is great,” Cummings said. “It really is the centerpiece to the whole carnival. To see the gathering of people and hear the children laughing and music playing with a nice, cold beer is the best part for me.”

The La Grange Carnival will run from 5 to 10 p.m. May 31, noon to 10 p.m. June 1 and noon to 9 p.m. June 2. Anthem performs from 8 to 10 p.m. June 1.

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