Parade roots run deep for “Winnetka Follies” members
Steve and Marge Clingan and other members of the "Village Follies" get into the spirit for Winnetka's upcoming Fourth of July parade. The group has marched in the parade since 1976.| Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 13, 2012 7:48AM
The origin of Winnetka’s current Fourth of July parade traces back to 1976, when towns across America were planning blowouts to celebrate the nation’s 200th year of independence, say some longtime current and former Winnetka residents.
“After seeing that other suburbs were going to celebrate in a big way, I went to town hall to ask if we could have a giant celebration for the 4th (of July),” recalled Cookie Svingos, who was advised to put a proposal together and bring it back to village staff.
“I went to the Fire Department and asked if they could lead the parade,” said Svingos, recalling that officials were hesitant to tie up a fire truck in their small department. “They said that they normally do not allow engines to do that, in case there was a fire that required all engines, but yes, they would, just this one time,” said Svingos, who recruited others from the Winnetka Woman’s Club variety show to help with the project.
“Then I thought there should be way more participation and suggested that people decorate cars and bikes,” said Svingos, whose recollections were corroborated by another active resident, Jeff Kane.
A group from the variety show, which would evolve into the current Village Follies, rented restaurant-sized barbecues for a cookout behind the Winnetka Community House. Local organizations like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts walked the parade route.
“I do believe there were more people in the parade that year than watchers,” said Svingos, who now lives closer to her family in California.
This year’s parade, organized by the Winnetka Park District, will step off at 10 a.m. from the corner of Elm Street and Glendale Avenue and proceed to The Village Green for a ceremony, flag parade and races.
Among the marchers will be a group from Village Follies, which has been a parade fixture since 1976.
Each year, the fun-loving “Follies” crew puts together what they describe as a “wacky and wild” variety show to benefit the Winnetka Community House. The show features skits, songs and dances written, choreographed and performed by members. Often, costumes from the Village Follies’ show in February are worn in the July parade.