Lake Bluff 4th Of July Parade Helps Define Community
It can rain on Lake Bluff's parade, but that won't stop 101 years of tradition.
In the early 1900s, Lake Bluff was in its peak of development, according to historian Elmer Vliet.
In 1901, the sewer system had just been completed, new iron water pipes had been put in, and the gas mains, street lamps and cement sidewalks were brand new. The volunteer fire department had been established, and a second railroad had been built just a few years before.
In 1911, when John Howard served as village president, it seemed Lake Bluff had plenty of reasons to celebrate. Howard issued a proclamation urging all Lake Bluff residents to “spruce up their property and trim their lawns for the holiday,” Vliet wrote in Lake Bluff, The First 100 Years. He appointed the first committee of men and women to plan special events for the Fourth of July.
Wina Peterson, village marshal, led the parade, and John Howard wore “colonial costume in a horse-drawn phaeton,” according to Vliet. There were drills by Boy Scouts and children from the Lake Bluff Children’s Home.
The 1911 parade in shiny new Lake Bluff must have been a wonderful sight. After the parade, people would gather on the beach each year until the dock was destroyed by a storm in 1933.
The success of the parade had a lasting effect on Lake Bluff. It resulted in the creation of the Lake Bluff Welfare Association, which promoted civic improvement and is responsible for establishing the ravine and the village green, on which the Fourth of July breakfast is enjoyed today.
For many years, the parade was planned by American Legion Post 510. William Dobbins, treasurer of the this year’s Fourth of July Committee and an American Legion member for 42 years, remembers that a small group of Legion members would plan the parade mostly over the telephone.
“Before I joined the Legion, they would have a carnival with games,” he said.
Dobbins said the parade has grown over the years. “They have more bands and units because they have a bigger budget,” he said.
Dobbins, a Lake Bluff resident since 1953, said that Lake Bluff’s patriotism may explain why the parade is so important to the community. “When the Legion puts on the Memorial Day program, we always have a good turnout,” he said.
In recent history, the 1995 parade was memorable not only because it was the village's centennial, but also because it was rained out by what Deb Dintruff, president of the Fourth of July Committee, called a “torrential downpour.”
“There was thunder, lightning and high winds,” she said.
“A marching band of 150 kids all backed into a garage to get out of the rain,” said Paul Lemieux, former committee president. He said many kids would run into garages as neighbors handed them towels.
“Hours after, parents were looking for their kids all over. There was nowhere to go. They were all tucked into garages,” Lemieux added.
That year, the Lake Bluff Lawnmower Precision Drill Team’s theme had been the Pottawatomi Indians. “’We were here first’ was the idea,” said Christian Erzinger. “We were in loincloths, freezing to death. It was cold.”
“It was ankle-deep,” Fire Chief David Graf said of the rain. “You could see everyone thinking, ‘What should we do?’ Soon the water was up to the curbs. The most amazing thing about it was that the people watching the parade didn’t leave.”
“The moment the final entries got back to the starting line, it stopped raining,” said Dobbins.
Even a torrential downpour couldn’t stop this important part of Lake Bluff history and tradition.