Memorial Day parade tradition returns in person

With its ‘Everybody Marches, Nobody Watches,’ philosophy, the 60th Memorial Day parade of the Wellington-Oakdale Old Glory Marching Society felt especially festive this year, said organizer Mike Lufrano. “This is about community. It’s about coming together after a long winter,” he said.

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The Jesse White Tumblers entertain at the 60th annual North Side WOOGMS Memorial Day parade Monday.

The Jesse White Tumblers entertain at the 60th annual North Side WOOGMS Memorial Day parade Monday.

Hector Torrez

The pandemic meant the WOOGMS Memorial Day parade – with its philosophy of “Everybody Marches, Nobody Watches” – turned into “Nobody Marches, Nobody Watches.”

It went remote due to COVID-19, but fans said it just wasn’t the same.

On Monday, the exuberant, inclusive, do-it-yourself event was back. And for that reason, the 60th Memorial Day parade of the Wellington-Oakdale Old Glory Marching Society–the first since 2019–felt especially festive.

Hector Torrez dressed in red, white and blue to watch the WOOGMS Memorial Day parade. “It’s community,” he said.

Hector Torrez dressed in red, white and blue to watch the WOOGMS Memorial Day parade. “It’s community,” he said.

Maureen O’Donnell/Sun-Times

“It’s about coming together after a long winter,” said organizer Mike Lufrano. “It’s about neighbors and sharing how to be back together and be able to celebrate what’s great about Chicago — its neighborhoods, its people.”

Lufrano, 56, and another attendee, Michael White, 37, both said they were first at the Lake View parade in utero — while their moms were pregnant.

White’s mother, playwright Vicki Quade, said, “I was pregnant back in 1984 with Michael here; I was eight months pregnant. We’ve come to it almost every year.”

“It’s nice to see the neighborhood,” her son said.

Rich Fingard, wife Kara Fingard and their dog Beauty at the WOOGMS Memorial Day parade.

Rich Fingard, wife Kara Fingard and their dog Beauty at the WOOGMS Memorial Day parade.

Maureen O’Donnell/Sun-Times

While WOOGMS returned to holding an in-person Labor Day parade last September, the Memorial Day gathering is an “unofficial summer kickoff,” said organizer Jennifer Bernardi. “It is super touching.”

Secretary of State Jesse White holds a banner as his tumblers vaulted over it.

Secretary of State Jesse White holds a banner as his tumblers vaulted over it.

Hector Torrez photo

The Jesse White Tumblers and drum corps entertained an estimated 1,200 marchers — and, despite the motto, a few watchers. Lots of dogs strutted in red, white and blue boas, jackets and collars as the parade kicked off from Pine Grove and Wellington avenues about 11 a.m.

The Jesse White Tumblers entertained outside St. Joseph Hospital at the end of the WOOGMS Memorial Day parade.

The Jesse White Tumblers entertained outside St. Joseph Hospital at the end of the WOOGMS Memorial Day parade.

Hector Torrez

As she watched the high-flying tumblers, 8-year-old Bella Filippini said: “I thought they were going to break their bones.”

Patrick McLean was at the parade with his 8-year-old daughter Mae (right) and her friend, Bella Filippini, 7.

Patrick McLean was at the parade with his 8-year-old daughter Mae (right) and her friend, Bella Filippini, 7.

Maureen O’Donnell/Sun-Times

“I really liked when they did the flips,” said Riley Soria, 5.

Riley Soria, 5, and brother Dylan, 3, outside St. Joseph Hospital at the end of the WOOGMS parade with parents Beth and Dominic Soria.

Riley Soria, 5, and brother Dylan, 3, outside St. Joseph Hospital at the end of the WOOGMS parade with parents Beth and Dominic Soria.

Maureen O’Donnell/Sun-Times

Even though he’s retiring as Illinois secretary of state after 24 years in that office, the 87-year-old White still plans to attend future WOOGMS parades. He said it and the Bud Billiken parades are his favorites.

It wouldn’t be a Chicago parade without politics. White introduced Chicago city Clerk Anna Valencia, who has White’s endorsement to succeed him.

White made history as the first Black person to hold that office, Valencia said, and she predicted Illinois would make history by electing her as the first woman to serve in the post.

Valencia faces Chicago Ald. David Moore (17th) and former state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias in the Democratic primary on June 28.

The WOOGMS parade started on Memorial Day 1963 when Lake View adman Al Weisman gathered a group of kids to march and celebrate.

“He was a very creative man and always had a good sense of humor and thought if we marched in a parade, it would be more memorable than watching,” said his son Tony Weisman, now 62. “A neighbor of ours gave him a fabulous used tricorn hat and a scepter collected from neighborhood garage sales.”

“It’s an idea that endures,” Tony Weisman said.

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