HYDE PARK — A South Side Independence Day celebration is back in full form this year with a parade along 53rd Street and a community party in Nichols Park.
The 4th on 53rd parade and picnic kicks off Monday morning. People can visit a station with decorations for bikes, strollers and other mobile equipment starting 10 a.m. at the Hyde Park Bank parking lot, 5330 S. Lake Park Ave.
Staging for the parade begins at 10:30 a.m. Monday at 54th Street and Old Lake Park Avenue. The parade starts at 11 a.m. and ends in Nichols Park, 1355 E. 53rd St.
A picnic and festival will follow the parade noon-3 p.m at Nichols Park.
Local literacy nonprofit Brown Books and Paintbrushes will offer free books and activities for kids; Jean-Paul Coffy and Yakini Ajanaku, who led 105 straight days of music and dance from their Kenwood porch at the start of the pandemic, will perform; and youth with the nonprofit A Bit Different will show off their robotics skills, among other activities.
Organizers “are thrilled” to return in full after a pandemic hiatus, said Sarah Diwan, a member of the parade’s planning committee and development director of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club.
“We think it’s time to bring people together in celebration of our community and in celebration of all of our local groups,” Diwan said.
Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Board president and who was the 4th Ward alderperson 1991-2010, will serve as the event’s grand marshal. Gov. JB Pritzker and Lt. Gov. Julianna Stratton will march in the parade alongside other local and statewide elected officials.
“There are very few events where you can show up and see basically the entire leadership of your city and state like you can here,” said David White, who is on the planning committee and serves on the Nichols Park Advisory Council. “I hope [the elected officials’ attendance] helps everyone realize we’re all people and we’re all in it together.
“It helps us feel a little more like part of the process — or at least a part of the community.”
The event will celebrate its 30th anniversary this year, though it’s actually the 28th edition of the parade due to the pandemic. Parade organizers will likely hold off on a “grand celebration” of the 30th anniversary until 2024, White said.
This year’s 4th on 53rd is a “reboot year” for its organizers, White said. Numerous longtime volunteers and regular performers did not return to the parade after its pandemic break, while event planning costs have risen 15-20 percent, he said.
Organizers are still looking for volunteers to carry banners and serve as parade marshals. To sign, click here.
After the Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Diwan has encountered some “discomfort” about celebrating the United States and its foundation, she said.
The parade and picnic will honor residents’ “individuality, diversity of opinion and diversity of thought,” Diwan said.
“We’re thrilled to be able to bring people together around this holiday,” she said. “We don’t have to all agree on every detail of what it means to be a citizen, or who we might vote for. … There are some things that we hold in common.”
Political uncertainty gives South Siders “all the more reason to get out here and be shoulder-to-shoulder with your neighbors, building bonds with each other — and [4th on 53rd] can help with that,” White said.
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