A 57-year Memorial Day parade tradition continues, thanks to the internet

The parade’s usual motto of “everybody marches, nobody watches” was adjusted for the times, becoming “everybody watches, nobody marches” due to social distancing guidelines that rule out large gatherings.

SHARE A 57-year Memorial Day parade tradition continues, thanks to the internet
The 2006 WOOGMS Memorial Day parade. The Wellington-Oakdale Old Glory Marching Society started its parade in 1963, and continued that tradition in 2020 despite the coronavirus pandemic by holding a virtual parade online.

The 2006 WOOGMS Memorial Day parade. The Wellington-Oakdale Old Glory Marching Society started its parade in 1963, and continued that tradition in 2020 despite the coronavirus pandemic by holding a virtual parade online.

Sun-Times file

Though the coronavirus pandemic stopped the Wellington-Oakdale Old Glory Marching Society from stepping off from St. Joseph’s Hospital Monday morning, members of the group and the North Side neighborhood went the virtual route to continue the 57-year tradition.

The parade’s usual motto of “everybody marches, nobody watches” was adjusted for the times, becoming “everybody watches, nobody marches” in light of social distancing guidelines that have ruled out gathering for large events for the time being — the group hopes to march in person on Labor Day.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who the society says is the first sitting governor to attend the WOOGMS event, said in pre-recorded remarks that while he knows marchers would rather be out in person, they’re “keeping our essential workers safe and doing your part to stop the spread of this virus.”

“And even as you stay home today, I join you in saluting our veterans and celebrating our nation,” Pritzker said. “WOOGMS has become a wonderful tradition, and as you are helping others by not marching, you’re among the patriots that ought to be honored today.”

In a 20-minute live streamed, virtual parade, WOOGMS, based at Wellington and Pine Grove avenues, featured members of its marching crew, first responders and veterans. Larry Foyt, a Vietnam War veteran, gave a shout out to first responders: “Together, we will defeat this war.”

There was also flashback footage of a young Jesse White, now Illinois secretary of state, and Tony Wiseman, whose father started the parade. White’s tumbling group was seen in footage from bygone parades.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot also appeared via pre-recorded message — the first for a sitting mayor, too, according to members of the marching society.

She lauded the group for marching for nearly 60 years “through rain, snow, sleet and sunshine and today you’re marching through a virus online” and offered a message of optimism.

“We may be holding our parade online this year, but our bonds are strong as they’ve ever been as we’ve stood together as one city during this unprecedented crisis,” Lightfoot said. “And I can’t wait to be joining all of you, in person, once again when we finally defeat this virus and embark on the greatest recovery this city has ever seen.”

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