Do you ever wonder what Elmhurst was like 95 years ago? The Wilder family still owned the Wilder Mansion, trains on the Great Western Railway chugged through town. Think about the cars and clothing and celebrations in 1918—like the city's first Memorial Day Parade. World War I was just ending, after all.
Ninety-five years later, the parade is still a significant event for Elmhurst families, who come out to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in service to our country. At this year's celebration, thoughts will not only be with all those lost, but also with our servicemen and women currently serving in the Middle East and elsewhere around the world.
More than 80 entries are signed up to march this year. They will be led by U.S. Army Lt. Col. Peter W. Farrell, an Airborne Ranger who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and head of the ROTC program at University of Illinois-Chicago.
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Members of the Kiwanis Club of Elmhurst will again serve as Parade Marshals and will carry their giant U.S. flag. Fellow Kiwanians Ralph Pechanio, chairman of the Elmhurst Veterans Memorial Commission, and Elmhurst Chamber President and CEO John Quigley have been parade co-chairmen since 1996 and 2000, respectively.
“Our parade is a tribute to all those men and women who have so bravely put their lives on the line to defend individual freedoms here in this greatest of nations and around the world,” Quigley said. “This year’s parade will have added significance, as we look forward to the end of the War in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.”
Entries include seven color guards, retired military officers from the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, members of American Legion Post 187 and VFW Post 2801, costumed Civil War re-enactors and military vehicles. The lead color guard will feature Elmhurst police and fire personnel.
The Elmhurst Fire Department will be joined by those from Northlake, Oakbrook Terrace and Oak Brook. Ten Cub Scout packs, a Boy Scout troop and a combined group of Girl Scouts will carry commemorative war banners. Elmhurst Mayor Steve Morley and members of the Elmhurst City Council will head a contingent of political leaders that includes State Sen. Kirk Dillard and State Rep. Patti Bellock. U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, originally scheduled to march, had to cancel due to his lack of mobility after leg surgery, according to a representative from his office.
The Marching Dukes from York High School and the Elmhurst Middle School marching band will perform, along with Timothy Christian High School students and the Elmhurst College Jazz Band. Rounding out the parade’s musical groups are the Antioch Brass Quintet, Carver Military Academy Drill Team and Drum Corps, Chicago Highlanders Pipes and Drums, Chicago Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Chorus of DuPage, Patton Academy (Farragut High School) JROTC Drill and Drums Team, Royal Airs Drum and Bugle Corps and Spirito! Singers.
The parade will step off at 9:30 a.m. at York and Third Street, head south on York to Second Street, head down Robert Palmer Drive through the underpass, then south on York to Church, west on Church to Prospect, and north on Prospect to the Veterans Memorial at Wilder Park, where a ceremony will be held following the parade.
The parade is presented by the Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Elmhurst American Legion T.H.B. Post 187, Veterans of Foreign Wars Villa Park Post 2801 and the City of Elmhurst.
The Military Ceremony at the Elmhurst Veterans Memorial will feature inspirational speeches by Mayor Morley and others, the laying of wreaths by military personnel and civilians, and a traditional three-round volley.
Patriotic music will be performed by the Antioch Brass Quintet and bagpiper Brian Costello of the Shannon Rovers, and sung by the Men of Spirito! and soloist Anne Quigley.
The names of Elmhurst veterans who passed away since Veterans Day 2012 will be read aloud in remembrance, from the lists provided by Ahlgrim, Gibbons and Pedersen-Ryberg funeral homes in Elmhurst. American Legion Post 187 has placed rows of white crosses adjacent to the Veterans Memorial with the names of Elmhurst residents killed during World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, Persian Gulf War, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
For the fourth year, an Always Remember sign commemorating the names of the deceased Memorial Day Parade Grand Marshals has been erected adjacent to the crosses. The sign was manufactured by Vital Signs USA, with a donation by Don Meyers.
The Veterans Memorial was dedicated in 1993 through the efforts of former VFW Post 2048, American Legion Post 187, and Ralph Pechanio, 1992 President (now chairman) of the chamber’s board of directors. Their fund-raising campaign generated more than $100,000 to build the memorial. Applications to have a deceased veteran honored at the Veterans Memorial are available at Elmhurst City Hall, 209 North York Street, or by calling (630) 530-3010.