‘Hyde Park is back’ at annual 4th on 53rd Parade on South Side, Brandon Johnson’s first as mayor

An estimated 5,000 people attended the Hyde Park tradition that dates back to 1992. The festivities included a battle of marching bands from two rival high schools.

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Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson 4th on 53rd Parade Fourth of July

Mayor Brandon Johnson and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle (dressed as Lady Liberty) attend Hyde Park’s annual July Fourth parade.

Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times

On most days, the sound of a siren is cause to pull over, but on the Fourth of July in Hyde Park, it’s a call for people to take to the streets for the South Side neighborhood’s annual 4th on 53rd Parade.

Crowds began lining the streets well before the 11 a.m. start time to watch the parade led by a police cruiser sounding its siren, which was followed by community organizations, local businesses and politicians filing down the road, including Mayor Brandon Johnson, marching for the first time since coming into office.

Credell Walls Jr. float 4th on 53rd Fourth of July parade Chicago

Credell Walls Jr. looks to decorate a float at the 4th on 53rd parade in Chicago on Tuesday. The annual tradition dates back to 1992, but has since grown to be one of the largest Independence Day parades in Chicago with an estimated 5,000 people attending this year.

Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times

The annual tradition dates back to 1992, but it has since grown to be one of the largest Independence Day parades in Chicago with an estimated 5,000 people attending this year.

“Hyde Park is back,” said local Ald. Desmon Yancy (5th), also marching for the first time since coming into office.

The South Side-raised official said Hyde Park had felt less “homey” since the pandemic, but that for him, the crowds gathered for the event signaled a resurgence.

“This parade helps build relationships,” he said, “build a sense of community and lets people see what the community has to offer.”

The freshman alderperson marched alongside other politicians, including Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle dressed as Lady Liberty, and Johnson, who shimmied as he marched.

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson Nichols Park East 53rd 4th on 53rd Parade Fourth of July

Mayor Brandon Johnson, center, enters Nichols Park on East 53rd Street at the end of the 4th on 53rd Parade. This was Johnson’s first time marching as mayor.

Michael Loria/Sun-Times

The mile-long parade began at 54th Street and Lake Park Avenue and ended at Nichols Park on East 53rd Street.

South Shore residents Yvonne and Julius Williams grabbed a seat along the heart of the route on 53rd Street. The retired couple has attended the parade, on and off, since their daughter marched in it with her Girl Scout troop in 1995.

“We love this little parade,” Julius Williams said, adding that “it was much smaller” when their daughter marched.

For him, the event is a chance for the neighborhood to show off its legacy of diversity

“Chicago can be fairly segregated, but there are neighborhoods that are integrated also,” the Navy veteran said. “Of those, Hyde Park has been the most successfully integrated.”

It reminded him of the mayor’s campaign promise to unify Chicago. “I’m interested and excited to see what Brandon Johnson can do.”

Samuel Swenson, Sydney Raab South Side 4th on 53rd Parade Chicago Fourth of July Moody Bible Institute students

Moody Bible Institute students Samuel Swenson (left) and Sydney Raab attend the South Side’s 4th on 53rd Parade for the first time since coming to Chicago for school several years ago. Swenson, 22, said he looked up the local parade in order to maintain his Independence Day tradition that started in Yorkville. “It’s something I’ve been doing with my family and siblings, so I thought I should still go to a parade,” he said.

Michael Loria/Sun-Times

For Yvonne Williams, the perennial highlight of the parade is the “bike brigade,” a group of children with bicycles decorated in streamers and American flags. “That is so cute,” she said.

Others were fans of a group of riders on horseback known as the “Black Cowboys,” plus local tumbling and cheer groups.

The festivities continued at Nichols Park after the parade, with lawn games; a petting zoo with sheep, llamas and ponies; and a nine-piece band playing patriotic songs.

Hundreds, however, were drawn first to the showdown between Kenwood Academy High School and King College Prep High School, where the marching bands from the two schools played and danced to win the loudest applause from the audience.

Kenwood Academy Marching Band 4th on 53rd parade Chicago Fourth of July

Members of the Kenwood Academy Marching Band participate in the 4th on 53rd parade in Chicago on Tuesday. Hundreds of spectators were drawn to the band showdown between Kenwood and King College Prep High School.

Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times

Staci Robinson, a Kenwood graduate who had two children attend the CPS school, said the post-parade faceoff is an annual tradition.

Between shouts of “Go, Broncos” in support of her alma mater, Robinson stopped to talk.

Last year, she said, no one was in the mood for a parade following news about the mass shooting in Highland Park, but this year, she was happy the weather was nice and the neighborhood had turned out.

“I’m so glad the pandemic is over,” she said. “I’m so glad this is back.”

Michael Loria is a staff reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South Side and West Side.

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