If you walked the route on Sunday, you may have thought you stumbled upon a blocks-long party.
A festival atmosphere prevailed among spectators prior to the parade, with tents and tables of food and drinks set up outside many homes. People wandered among front yards, mingling with their neighbors and creating a cocktail party-like vibe.
Several children set up stands to sell bottled water and snacks to hungry passer-by, while some spectators took advantage of Bernard Drive being blocked off and played catch in the street in the last few minutes before the parade started.
Lynn Van Dorn arrived at the parade with a plan. A longtime spectator who previously marched in the parade, Van Dorn knew exactly where to grab the perfect seat to watch the parade.
“The closer you go to the beginning, the less crowded it is,” Van Dorn said with a smile on her face. She had set up a blanket on Bernard Drive near White Pine Road, where spectators were plenty, but not a huge crowd. Van Dorn had claimed her spot about 30 minutes before the parade began.
"I think it gets so crowded near Raupp and Bernard because people from the Lake County side like to park in that area. It's easy to get to the carnival rides and food tent if you park there," Van Dorn explained.
The parade started at Bernard and Regent drives, then headed east on Bernard to Raupp Boulevard, then headed north to St. Mary’s Parkway.
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Walking east on Bernard, the crowds grew bigger and deeper, sometimes reaching three-deep. In anticipation of the huge crowds, many spectators set up chairs hours in advance, with some claiming their spots as early as Saturday night.
“I set up my blanket and chairs about 7 o’clock this morning,” Linda Lanworthy said. “I’ve watched the parade for years, so I know when to set things up.”
In the announcers’ tent in front of the , Bill Brimm and Chuck Johnson looked over their notes for the parade route just minutes before the first entry was to march.
“We look over the notes for each parade entry and go from there,” Brimm said.
“It helps that we work well together. We’re just here to enjoy ourselves,” Johnson said.
Brimm is Buffalo Grove's former village manager, and Johnson previously served as a village trustee.
The parade will be televised on the village's local access cable station (Comcast channel 6).
Many spectators came prepared to catch candy, an established tradition of the parade.
“We have plastic bags and we’re ready for candy!” Olivia Lunsford said.
Wheeling residents Marilyn Pactwa and Mark Pactwa snagged seats about 20 minutes before the parade started. “We’ve been coming to the parade about five or six times,” Marilyn Pactwa said. “We just try to find parking, and then find a seat nearby.”
Longtime Buffalo Grove residents Bill and Deb Harrison had a few favorite entries in the parade. “We just love the marching bands,” Deb said, adding that they stay to watch the entire parade.
Mike and Pauline Vernick, also Buffalo Grove residents, set up their chairs by 10 a.m. Sunday morning. “We’ve been attending the parade for about 27 years,” Pauline said. “The Shriners and the marching bands are always so neat to see.”