The Epitome Of 4th Of July Parades

Crystal Lake, Illinois 4th Of July Parade 2009

Note: In 2009, I attended the Crystal Lake, Illinois Fourth of July parade, which took place a few blocks from my home. It remains, in my mind, the epitome of such events.

1. Crystal Lake, Illinois is not the kind of town that takes its 4th of July Parade lightly – even when that event takes place on the 5th of July.1

Flash an American flag, and we all stand – no questions asked, no looking around to see if everyone else is standing; moreover, full-fledged salutes are not uncommon. The flag carried by the Color Guard (see above) also evoked loud cheers and rousing applause without a trace of self-consciousness.

2. The crowd – or at least the crowd around my location near the end of the parade route – also, however, clapped for, waved at, or otherwise indicated approval of every unit in the parade, including a couple of pickups that appeared to qualify as parade entries by virtue of being self-propelled and attached to magnetic signs.

One could, in fact, make the argument that in the parade unit-parade watcher dyad, the ostensible audience was, in fact, the provider and the paraders the receivers in the exchange of goods and services. In many cases, there was precious little entertainment or inspiration forthcoming from the paraders. They, indeed, were the recipients of shows of support and ego enhancement just for showing up and, in the case of those feeling particularly needy, insecure, or generous, tossing candy to those gathered along the route.

My appreciative group of parade-watchers applauded Young Republicans, Democrats (of uncertain age), new and ancient firetrucks, one group dressed as circus clowns who played retro rock music, several churches actively proselytizing among the crowd, a three vehicle contingent, one component of which was a massive 18-wheeler, representing a local installer of hot tubs, librarians pushing book carts, a truckload of kids who participated in the library’s reading program, marchers supporting gay rights, everyone holding political office in the county, every family member of everyone holding political office in the county, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, campers, baton twirling academies, pom-pom units, all out marching bands, drum and bugle corps (one of which played a delightful if percussion-heavy version of “Penny Lane”), a van with rear doors opened to reveal speakers the approximate size of the van itself pounding out unidentifiable tunes, folks on stilts, lodge members at the helm of high-wheel bicycles, motorized flying carpets, tiny replicas of 1957 Chevys, and other mini-cars, old cars, new cars, radio-controlled cars, police cars, police motorcycles, police bikes (of the sort requiring pedaling), policemen on foot patrolling the route, veterans of one war or another, local merchants, and many unidentifiable others.

This raises the question of whether it is possible for a parade entrant to be so banal, boring, or ambiguous that he/she/they/it would not be applauded. Based on yesterday’s experience, I believe the entry would have to be beyond dull; it would have to be evil – and in a nontrivial manner – to be shunned. The Nazi party contingent, for example, might have a long, silent walk down the parade route. Short of that level of bad, however, if you’re willing to walk the parade walk, we’re willing to cheer you on.


3. As indicated by the pictures of the crowd at the bottom and bottom right of the above collage, one doesn’t just show up and hope for good seats at the parade. Those canopies in the shot at the bottom are not vendors or carnival booths. Those are set up by the parade viewers. Chairs (more than a few of which were not of the folding, easily transportable sort), insulated chests, tents, flags, playpens … abound.

4. I know two things about Jesse White: (1) He’s the first African-American to serve as Illinois Secretary of State, and (2) he founded the Jesse White Tumblers. I am only a tad chagrined to admit that I’m more impressed by the second of those facts. This group has, as far as I can determine, performed at every public event, Bulls game, and school gathering I’ve ever attended – or my kids have ever attended – or any citizen of Illinois has ever attended. And they are stars. The above photos (thank goodness my camera is better at photography than I am) are self-explanatory.

5. The final set of photos may, on the other hand, require substantial explanation. Crystal Lake, it turns out, is home to The Precision Marching Lawn Chair Dads. This blurb is from their web site:2

Since 1994 The Precision Marching Lawn Chair Dads have been entertaining thousands of parade attendees through out Illinois, including the Nationally Televised Chicago State Street Thanksgiving Day Parade. We also recently participated in the West Virginia Strawberry Festival Parade!

The Precision Marching Lawn Chair Dads consists of 30 fun loving guys that obviously have nothing better to do during summer weekends. We dress in boxer shorts, black sox, sandals, white tank tops, and sunglasses that march in “Military Formation” with lawn chairs.

Our group is the most sought out parade act in Illinois! Most parades are boring and filled with clowns, politicians, (no pun intended) loud sirens, and business advertisement. Our group will bring your parade attendees alive with laughter! We are the comedy relief of every parade route we step onto.

The Dads are a “unique” group of friends (with very tolerant wives) that get together to entertain and raise money for various charities including cancer foundations and pediatric cancer foundations

If being a citizen of the home town that produces this type of organization doesn’t make one proud, then, … well, I don’t know what.



  1. Considering that Independence Day not only always falls on the Fourth of July but is most frequently known as The 4th Of July, the variation in scheduling its official municipal celebrations is impressive. Chicago traditionally blasts its fireworks skyward on July 3 (a fact we discovered the first July 4th we spent in the city) while many of the surrounding suburbs set off their detonations on the 5th. Some places are rumored to have chosen to light their taxpayer-purchased fuses on July 4. Wacky, eh? []
  2. The Precision Marching Lawn Chair Dads web site also has links to their charities as well as videos and still photos of much higher quality than those I took during the parade. []

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