The 4th on 53rd Parade and Picnic Story

A phenomenon of Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood since 1992- 20+ years

Presented by Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference and its Parks Committee with Nichols Park Advisory Council

Story of the 4th of 53rd.

4th on 53rd is an independent project/committee of Nichols Park Advisory Council (an affiliate committee of HPKCC) originally a project of the Ad Hoc Committee on 53rd Street and the Hyde Park Development Corporation.

Return to Nichols Park home, Parks home. 53rd Street. Pictures of past parades 1 and 2. home. home.

For contacts including to volunteer, call Stephanie Franklin at 773 955-3622.
THE PARADE ASSEMBLES IN THE LOT SOUTH OF HYDE PARK BANK, ON OLD LAKE PARK AVE. for decorating, assembling etc. between 10 and 11 am- if you're with a group, please check in. Kicks off at 11 and goes south on Lake Park, east on 55th, north on S. Hyde Park Blvd. and west on 53rd into Nichols Park- follow instructions as the park entry is narrow. Activities include sing-along, speeches, bands, games. Limited food for purchase in Murray play lot. (HPKCC will be selling crime-stopper whistles.)

The "Old Fashioned 4th on 53rd Street Parade and Picnic" started as a brainstorm in 1992, during an Ad Hoc Committee on 53rd St. St. Patrick's Day retreat at the Matteson Holiday Inn. Initiators were Irene Sherr, Rebecca Janowitz, and Nancy Stanek. Stanek and Janowitz approached Stephanie Franklin about tying a holiday parade to promote 53rd St. with promotion of the new addition to Nichols Park. Engaged were Joan Steggemann, who then worked for Stanek's Toys Et Cetera, who consulted the once very active Old Glory Marching Society. The turnout was much larger than expected, so the team was on its way. The 2012 anniversary edition was in honor of George Franklin, who became the glue of the planning and parade and of the concert series over succeeding weeks.

The following story of the Parade and Picnic was written by Nancy Stanek on its 10th anniversary, 2002. It is followed by an update. Both were published in the June 6, 2012 issue of the Hyde Park Herald.

Some 4th on 53rd parade history

The 4th on 53rd Old-Fashioned Four of July has many to thank for its success. First an foremost is the ad hoc committee on 53rd Street, who with their paid consultant, Bert Still, convened a community retreat in March of 1992. Leaders and concerned citizens of Hyde Park were called to come together to address the problems of 3rdd Street, and broke into subcommittees to tackles these.

While most chose such weighty issues as parking, crime, and business vitality, two of similar mind and bent chose special events. Rebecca Janowitz, of Children's Book Fair fame, found herself sitting across from Nancy Stanek, owner of Toys et cetera. Rebecca said "Parade;" Nancy said "Fun and Games;" both exclaimed "Fourth of July!" The where was equally easy: march down 53rd Street to the "new" Nichols Park, and hold the festival there-- and also very providential, as it automatically tapped an enormously valuable resource-- Stephanie Franklin, the founder and protector of Nichols Park.

The core committee may have been small, but its tentacles reached far. All that was required was contact; the event itself, an Old Fashioned Fourth of July, sold itself. Irene Sherr, who was responsible for recruiting most folks to the retreat in the first place, helped underwrite the first year's event by securing the financial support of the Hyde Park Development Corporation. Rebecca dialed up Duel Richardson, Toni Preckwinkle and Bob Richards, bringing to the 4th on 53rd the enthusiastic backing of the University of Chicago's Office of Community Affairs, the 4th Ward Alderman's office and the South East Chicago Commission, as well as the 21st Police District.

Rebecca personally made Toni's Statue of Liberty Costume and enlisted her neighbors to make a Liberty Bell float. Stephanie enlisted the support of the Chicago Park District and the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club and brought with h er the indefatigable time, skills, and tenacity of George Franklin. Nancy called on the financial support of her fellow merchants, the special talents of her friends and neighbors, and hands, legs and backs of her staff. Her Harper Street neighbor Steve Thomas assembled a group of musicians to perform at the park and ended up forming an impromptu marching band at the 11th hour for the parade.

Nancy's friend Mimi Asbury volunteered to round up the Garden Fair Committee to march in the parade, man the registration table and help out in the park. Joan Steggemann, now of Joan's studio, came on board to round up additional stage equipment. Charley Gibbons, then manager of the Hyde Park Toys et Cetera, made the Uncle Sam outfit that state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25) wears to this day. The Toys et Cetera staff volunteered to put up posters, blow up balloons, face paint-- to do whatever it took to help pull off the first 4th on 53rd. The ad hoc committee provided the 4th on 53rd with any number of foot soldiers, two of whom remain particularly active: Jane Comiskey, who puts up posters and distributes flyers to her senior Cinema, and Marc Lipinski, who with his son Marco decorates the park and parade street with lots and lots of American flags.

Now approaching its 10th year, the 4th on 53rd is a testament to marriages. From its onset it has been an event that has enjoyed the support and participation of all segments of our very diverse community. Young and old, rich and poor, powerful and not, black and white, Hispanic and Asian, all Hyde Parkers come out to march in the parade and picnic and play in the park. The 4th on 53rd has received generous backing, financial and other wise, of our local politicians, major businesses and institutions. It's been the marriage of business and community; the marriage of town and gown; the marriage of politics and people. So perhaps its's not particularly squirrelly that two separate, very old fashioned marriage brought two key players, the present co-Chairs of the event, to the forefront: (1) George Franklin, married to Stephanie, and (2) Julie McCauley, married to Mark Lipinski.

Not heat nor rain, neither people nor politics; nothing seems to be able to stop this event from happening. When it poured torrents, the parade led by pipers with banners flying, still marched down the street. The rained-out performers came back to perform on subsequent Sundays, and thus launched the now very successful series of Sunday Concerts in the Park. On a 4th early on, local weathermen called a heat alert and cautioned Chicago residents to stay inside. Hyde Parkers came out anyway, the Marquette Park District Marching Band rolled up in their bus, and the International Horsemen arrived with there horses in tow all the way up from Beverly. when the three original co-chairs stepped down, George Franklin and Julie McCauley stepped forward to organize, and institutionalized the event to the stature it enjoys today. Just last year, when local politics concerning the park an Murray School threatened, the event stood strong and our flags kept waving!

[New:] This history was written in 2002, for the Chamber of Commerce annual award ceremony at which George and Julie were honored for their community service in organizing the 4th on 53rd celebration. Now, fast-forward 10 years-- and what was described then is just as true today. Many people still volunteer their talent, time and energy to produce this annual festival. And 2012 marks the 20th anniversary of the 4th on 53rd! Unfortunately, last August we lost our mentor and the 4th's spiritual 'Grand Marshall,' George Franklin, and so the 2-12 4th n 53rd is dedicated in his memory.

But the 4th marches on! we still need volunteer balloon blowers, poster putter-uppers, face painter, park and parade decorators and musicians, as well as entertainers--maybe there is a juggler who would like to march in the parade and then stroll around the park? Or a slack-line walker? Or some Japanese drummers? Or a steel band? The list could continue, but you get the idea. So join in--May the 4th be with you, and all our flags keep waving.