boy scouts on parade (copy)

Boy Scout Danny Tammen (with Chicago flag) and other members of  troops 512 and 599 march in the 28th annual 4th on 53rd parade on 53rd Street, Wednesday morning, July 4, 2019.


After being canceled in 2020 and running without a parade in 2021, the 4th on 53rd Parade and Picnic is returning this year, and the organizers need volunteers.

"There was a little rust on the old event planning crew," said David White, part of the Nichols Park Advisory Council.

Sarah Diwan, another organizer, said some of the planners have fallen away over the pandemic years. Those who remain are in a rebuilding mode.

"A number of youth groups that are normally showcased are not yet fully up, functional and ready to perform," she said. "We still will have performances. We'll have a main stage of performances, and we'll have folks marching in our parade.”

Music Magic Time, known for leading the "Lake Park Fired Up" events in North Kenwood during the spring 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns, will perform at the Nichols Park picnic, alongside the Hyde Park School of Dance, Black Girls Jump, the Kenwood School of Ballet and A Bit Different, a robotics group making their 4th on 53rd debut. So is a new magician, the Great Boodini.

Cornhole, ring-toss and other lawn games as well as two bouncy houses, a petting zoo and a face-painting station are back. Kenwood Academy and King College Prep's high school bands will battle. Cook County Board President Toni President is the parade's grand marshal.

In terms of safety, White said organizers will continue to use more of Nichols Park for the picnic events, as they did last year. "This allows us to spread people out, and it also avoids bunching, where you've got a lot of people waiting to do one game or another," he said.

Diwan noted that no public health authority recommends the general public wear masks outside, therefore organizers aren't either. But they encourage people who want to wear them for their own comfort to do so. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidance for immunocompromised or high-risk individuals in areas of medium COVID-19 risk, as Chicago currently is, only urges consideration of indoor mask wearing.

White said philanthropic support has been good from the event's traditional institutional partners. People can still donate on the event's new webpage: (With high inflation, expenses associated with throwing the event have been up 15% this year.)

Volunteers needed

White said a lot of the organizers' relationships with groups that provided volunteers in the past have waned since the 4th on 53rd had its last full-scale event. As they try "to get the band back together," he said they are also "trying to appeal to the community to sign up on our webpage, because we need people to do the games or the bouncy houses."

As of the afternoon of June 23, they needed around 15 more people to sign up to volunteer. Ten are needed for the picnic shift, running from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and five for the cleanup shift.

"We're trying to get the word far and wide to have a great celebration this year," White said. "Our community needs these things, and I think it's going to be very timely and well-received."

"I'm always awestruck at the generosity of our community, both for participating in this event, to come out on the Fourth of July, but also for the organizers and volunteers who give up their time, and our sponsors who are willing to write a check. I think Hyde Park is really an extraordinary place in that way."

It is in fact the event's 30th year, albeit non-consecutive because of the 2020 cancellation. Politicians will march in the parade, but it is happening after this year's primary elections. Diwan is OK with that. "To me, this year is very much a celebration that we're able to come back together as a community and begin building again," she said.

July Fourth is a Monday. The festivities this year begin with bike and stroller decorating in the parking lot behind the Hyde Park Bank Building, 1525 E. 53rd St. at 10 a.m.; the parade kicks off at 11 a.m. The picnic and festival activities are due to begin at noon.

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