In some cities, families fire up the
grill, uncover the pool and declare the official start to summer on
Memorial Day. LaGrange residents reserve that honor for the annual
Pet Parade, which winds its way through the suburb's center on the
first Saturday after Memorial Day every year.
The parade, celebrating its 65th
anniversary this year with a "Still Rockin' at 65" theme, is a
well-loved tradition in Chicago's western suburbs. All along the
mile-and-a-half route, an estimated 100,000 onlookers crowd the
sidewalks to stake out a view of one of the country's largest pet
Local marching bands stroll the streets
followed by drill teams, floats, sports mascots and hordes of
clowns. The grand marshal, a role usually filled by a local
celebrity, sports figure or dignitary, heads the two-hour affair.
The participants number in the thousands. But there is no question
who hogs the spotlight at this shindig. Hundreds of kids
accompanied by their furry friends-real or stuffed-strut proudly
along the parade route. Dogs, cats, snakes, lizards and horses,
many of them in homemade costumes, get in on the action each
A panel of judges deliberates over
which kid-and-pet pairs are the best dressed and awards prizes in
four categories: Dogs and Pals, Pets and Pals, Petless Pals and
Pals on Wheels. They pay special attention to the creativity in the
costume and how closely it fits the theme, which is Clowns on
Parade this year.
The LaGrange Chamber of Commerce
started the parade in 1947 as a way to garner attention for local
businesses. Edward Breen, the event's biggest advocate, nurtured it
for 58 years, watching it grow into a widely known yearly
tradition. Today, Pets and Pals Charities sponsors the parade to
promote animal care awareness.
Susan Breen married into the pet parade
dynasty and has helped coordinate the massive volunteer effort for
the past 20 years.
"My personal favorite would be the
children," she says. "It's really always the kids, their costumes,
their excitement that day. Everybody's happy on parade day. It
signals the beginning of summer."
The LaGrange Pet Parade runs 9:30-11 a.m. Saturday, June 4.
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