Now one of six Lakeview community members who regularly plan the Wellington-Oakdale Old Glory Marching Society’s parades, Mike Lufrano, 57, first took part in a neighborhood march as an infant, pushed along in a stroller by his mom.
On its 60th anniversary Monday, the family-forward spirit of what’s known as the WOOGMS parade was alive and well, as a multigenerational crowd of around 1,000 marched to celebrate Labor Day. “It always amazes me,” said Lufrano, who was there with his two kids. “All of a sudden the neighborhood blooms.”
True to the parade motto, “Everybody marches, nobody watches,” neighborhood children and adults made up the crowd, as they marched, danced, rode scooters, Rollerbladed and walked their dogs to the cadence of the Jesse White Drum Corps.
Along with the troupe of tumblers who flipped and soared over one another at the end of the parade, the drum corps is part of a youth program founded by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, who has attended the WOOGMS parade each of its 60 years.
“When you have all these young people, riding on their bicycles or tricycles and participating in the parade, it makes for a wonderful experience,” White said.
Resident Miriam Aronin and her husband, David Schwartz, participated in the parade for the first time with their 6-year-old daughter, Shira, and Aronin’s aunt. The day marked another milestone in the life they’ve built together in the community, Aronin said.
“We actually met in the neighborhood and got married in the neighborhood and had our baby in the neighborhood, so we really love Lakeview,” said Aronin. “And we’ve been hearing about (the parade) for years.”
Schwartz added: “We live in a time where people are polarized and isolated. And this is a great way to bring people together safely.”
The march drew Amelia Arkordor, 36, and her three kids from River North to participate in the parade for a second time. Arkordor said the event hits a sweet spot for her older children, who are home-schooled. “The kids can take the street and they get to be patriotic at the same time,” she said.
Working people received multiple shout-outs during the Labor Day march. The parades, which also take place on Memorial Day and July Fourth, are designed to help people celebrate community and one another, Lufrano said.
“We want everybody involved. We want people to feel together,” he said. “It’s about remembering what it means to be part of a community, ... being able to be together, being able to have respect for your neighbors to treat everybody like you want to be treated yourself ― to share in a beautiful day.”
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers paused in-person parades. But some neighbors still convened virtually. With the community now back together, Lufrano said the Labor Day crowd represented an uptick from the Memorial Day celebration in May.
“For 60 years we’ve been celebrating community and neighbors and our country and, on Labor Day, labor. It’s wonderful to see so many people come out and be a part of it,” he said.
The atmosphere is special to D.C.-area resident Adena Galinsky. She planned a trip to visit a college friend who lives in the community, around the celebration.
“I flew in from D.C. for the weekend. But the parade was definitely the draw,” Galinsky said, dancing with the beat of the drummers as children rolled by on scooters with streamers flowing from their handlebars.
“It’s a public expression of communal joy,” she said. “And that’s my favorite thing.”