Central Street less than an hour before Evanston parade Credit: Bob Seidenberg

Editor’s note: For more of the RoundTable’s coverage, please see: the main story on the shooting and how the July 5 investigation unfolded, our photo essay of Evanstonians reacting to the shooting and our story on the eyewitness accounts of the shooting. 

Three hours before Evanston’s first Fourth of July parade – the first in three years – was set to begin, volunteers for the event had already begun to arrive.

One group, the Mid-USA Falun Dafa Association, a Buddhist group that promotes wellness and peace, had already assembled their 60-foot float near Bent Park, located just off the parade route.

Group members sent a mini-van, though, to the Evanston Fourth of July Association’s information booth a few blocks east at Lawndale, after police had informed them that the parade had been cancelled, said Hillary Bean, the Association’s parade director.

The Mid-USA members wanted to confirm whether or not what police had told them was true, Bean said.

She recalled that she responded to their question in “a kind of unbelieving way,” that what they had heard was indeed correct.

Police had informed Jamie Black, the Association’s Celebration Manager, around 11:10 a.m., that the parade had to be cancelled because of a shooting that had taken place earlier that morning in Highland Park, and that the shooter was still at large, Bean said.

“Shocked, dismay, obvious sadness for what was happening to people in Highland Park,” said Bean, describing her reaction. “It’s  been so long since we’ve done this, and we had all worked so hard to get this together.”

The Association had just begun preparation efforts that have won the parade recognition as one of the best on the North Shore.

“The volunteers were just literally being sent out to chalk the streets, which we do before the entrants arrive so they know where to line up,” Bean said. “We chalk from 11 to 12:30. The groups start arriving. We get them all in place and the parade starts.”

The Asociacion de charros de la mesa, a horse group from the far northwest suburbs, was another group that arrived early. The group parked three horse trailers across from the Association’s information booth on Central Street, said Bean.

Jonathan Nachsin served as the Association’s coordinator of volunteers. Like Bean, he described his reaction as one of “serious disappointment, anger.”

“I was looking forward to seeing people I haven’t seen for a year or more, since this parade didn’t happen in the last two years [due to Covid],” he said. 

“I have an adult nephew who lives in New Jersey. I invited him to be a marshal to come out for this parade. He spent summers with us when he was in high school, and he even marshaled one year with me. And since he’s an experienced marshal I told him we could use him this year.”

Association members spend much of the year planning details for the day’s festivities, which begin at 9 a.m. with morning games at various parks and end at 10 p.m. with fireworks along the lakefront.

The group printed 6,000, 32-page programs in advance of the celebrations, so people could follow the day’s events. In a typical year, Evanston Youth Hockey Association members distribute thousands of programs to the spectators along Central Street, said Bean.

“And I don’t know what we’re going to do with them,” she added.

She said the group is due to meet in two week for its annual meeting and thank you luncheon for volunteer and supporters.

At the meeting, the trustees will review follow-up steps from the cancelled events, including whether “will be able to reschedule our fireworks show.”

Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.