The bunting hangs high on the lampposts of Central Street in anticipation of this year’s Fourth of July celebration. In garages, basements, backyards and community centers, routines are being rehearsed, floats painted, costumes mended and instruments tuned – all to be in fine fettle on parade day. Next Wednesday at 6 a.m. Lawn chairs will dot parkways and sidewalks, as eager Evanstonians stake out their parade-watching sites.

This year’s Fourth of July parade will be much like other parades seen here in the 88 years since the North End Mothers’ Club decided that Evanston should have its own Fourth of July parade. The main differences will be more behind-the-scenes – in preparation, partnerships and participating fees. This year, it costs to march.

“Our endowment has taken a severe hit, as many others have,” said Joan Ducayet, this year’s celebration manager. “We’re working very hard to cut expenses and cultivate donations,” she said. The requested fees – $100 for commercial/promotional entries and $75 for non-profit and community groups – will go toward the “basic infrastructure,” said Ms. Ducayet: port-a-potties, reviewing stands and safety equipment.

This year’s theme, “E Pluribus Evanston” highlights the community’s unity and (its) diversity. The entry fees have not significantly affected participation, Ms. Ducayet said, and scholarships are available for groups that feel they cannot pay the fee but would like to be in the parade. One entry will be a tribute to Allen “Bo” Price, who died this year. Among Mr. Price’s many contributions to Evanston were the original drill teams in the parade, and the entry will have representatives from the VFW and the American Legion, as well as alumni from many of Mr. Price’s drill teams.

Since 1980 the entire day’s event’s – playground games for youth, the parade, the evening band concert and fireworks – have been provided free of charge to the entire Evanston community and everyone else who made the early afternoon trek to Central Street. For nearly 60 years before that – between 1922 and 1980 – only the parade was free: The fireworks display took place in Ryan Field (then called Dyche Stadium), and the admission fee to see the fireworks – along with revenues from program and concession sales – more than offset the cost of the parade.

The installation of the artificial turf on the football field in 1980 ended the pay-for-display fireworks. “The Fourth of July Association decided to set off the fireworks for free at the lakefront,” said Ms. Ducayet.

But Northwestern University’s athletic department is back in the picture this year, she said, making a significant contribution to the day’s events.

More than 35 persons serve as board members and trustees, working to plan and pay for the parade. Work on the parade begins as early as February, when the celebration team is formed. On parade day, some 30 volunteers will blend seamlessly into the throng of watchers, marchers and performers, handing out programs and water, walking alongside the participants and enjoying the spectacle. “Think of the Fourth of July Association as a group that loves the day,” said Ms. Ducayet.

Any group that wishes to join the parade but requires assistance with the entry fee may contact Ms. Ducayet at

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...