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|Celebration gets bigger every year|
When Fred Huenefeld took over the annual Fourth of July parade down Pargoud Boulevard, he had a pickup truck loaded with a bunch of watermelons and about 50 followers.
Over the past several years, the parade has drawn thousands of local residents who bring their children to celebrate July 4th.
Last year, about 1,500 people took part in the parade, and Huenefeld estimates about 85 percent of them were children.
He anticipates that many more will join in the parade, which begins 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the corner of Beloit and Pargoud Boulevard.
This year also marks the first year the Rotary Club will sponsor the event.
"We are just tickled the Rotarians have agreed to sponsor it, and this will be a legacy we'll keep forever," Huenefeld said.
There are no motor vehicles in the parade, Huenefeld said. Instead, it is an entourage of children, parents, senior citizens and anyone else who wants to walk.
Children often ride their bikes or they are pulled in wagons by adults. The participants follow a police escort which leads them down the parade route.
Before the parade begins, the participants are led in a prayer and pledge of allegiance to the flag.
Each year Huenefeld has a famous American talk briefly about the history of the American Revolution. This year, Huenefeld has an actor who will be dressed as President James Monroe.
After Monroe's brief speech, participants will get to ring the Liberty Bell 13 times to recognize the original 13 colonies.
Patriotic music will be played as participants walk the parade route.
Slices of watermelon will be offered to all participants along with ice water provided by Brookshire's Grocery.
"We expect a big crowd this year. I've been involved in this over 20 years and it gets bigger and bigger every year," Huenefeld said. "The majority of our participants are children. We have kids all over the place. They bring their bikes, tricycles and skates. I've got a second generation of people coming to the parade now. Every year we put up our old signs to let people know about it, and the response has been awesome.
"The highlight of the event is when our revolutionary soldier gives a bit of history and challenges our citizens to know the history of the American Revolution. That's the beauty of the whole thing. Each one of our revolutionary people gives a part of history they had a part in. We've had Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams in the past. I even have next year's speaker lined up."
Huenefeld invites children of all ages to join in the festivities of the annual Fourth of July parade.