Elgin’s Fourth parade: view from the judges’ stand
By Janelle Walker For The Courier-News July 4, 2012 8:10PM
The 2012 City of Elgin 4th of July Parade. | Katherine Peters~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 6, 2012 11:59AM
ELGIN — There are a few different ways to watch a parade.
Some Elgin residents who live along Douglas Avenue, the traditional route for the city’s Fourth of July event, invite friends over for breakfast and to watch the parade from their front porches. Then, they and their guests are steps away from air conditioning, food and bathrooms.
Others stay inside entirely, and watch the floats, bands and parade cars pass by from the window and couch.
Then there are people who bring their bag chairs, umbrellas and coolers — along with the kids, pets, bug spray, sunblock and fans — and pull up a piece of lawn or sidewalk along the route, from Slade Avenue to Highland Avenue.
Or, there is watching the parade from the “comfort” of the judges’ stand.
On Wednesday, for the first time in my dozen years in Elgin and 20 as a reporter, I got to watch the parade from that coveted spot on the judges’ dais.
Jason Pawlowski, promotions coordinator for the Downtown Neighborhood Association, asked last week if I’d be willing to judge the floats for the Elgin parade. I jumped at the chance — not just for the experience or the cushy seat under the shade, but for a new angle from which to cover the parade.
Instead of walking up and down Douglas in the heat and talking to assorted people, I got to be one of those people who are interviewed. While sitting in the shade. With water nearby.
Being a judge also means you go from being a casual observer who may spend more time looking for tossed candy and chatting with friends to actually having to pay close attention to each and every parade entry.
I was up on the judges stand with old and new friends, too. Laurie-Faith Gibson, Dave Metzger, Ted Schnell, Katherine Dalin and Mike Butirro rounded out the six judges. The directions were fairly simple — as the floats which had registered for the contest came through, judge them on five categories.
Did the float keep to or even address the theme of “Red, White and Food?” How well was the float constructed? Was the float original? Where there any performances and special effects on the float? And overall, basically, how did the float work for you?
We had a list of just 21 floats entered in the contest, out of the 2,500 people walking or riding in the parade, and 115 separate entries. We found ourselves checking and double checking to make sure we didn’t miss a contest entry as it came by.
Was that the Elgin Kiwanis Club, or the Golden K Kiwanis Club? Which one had the float? Which United Methodist Church was that? Plus a few moments of “what does that acronym spell,” left the judges paying special attention to who was doing what with their floats.
Several people walking by the judges stand also yelled “Good seats!” up to the six of us. Yes, we had a nice view. But sitting up there makes it harder to catch the candy … or get bottles of water handed off to us. There may have been penalties to those who decided to walk by and not hand us some candy, too.
Overall, said Pawlowski from the Downtown Neighborhood Association, this was one of the largest and well-run Fourth parades in recent memory. The puts the “well run” credit on the volunteers’ shoulders, but was also grateful that those in the parade watched out for each other in temperatures careening toward 100 degrees.
“I don’t feel the heat put a damper on the festivities, I feel it united the participants and the parade goers,” Pawlowski said. He was told that those who had water were sharing it with those who had run out, and made sure seniors, children and animals had something to drink.