The pandemic has meant that the WOOGMS Memorial Day Parade – with its ‘Everyone Walks, Nobody Looks’ ethos – has turned into ‘Nobody Walks, Nobody Looks’.
He became distant due to COVID-19, but fans said it just wasn’t the same.
On Monday, the exuberant, inclusive, do-it-yourself event was back. And for that reason, the Wellington-Oakdale Old Glory Marching Society’s 60th Memorial Day Parade – the first since 2019 – was particularly celebratory.
“It’s about coming together after a long winter,” said organizer Mike Lufrano. “It’s about neighbors and sharing how to get back together and be able to celebrate what’s great about Chicago – its neighborhoods, its people.”
Lufrano, 56, and another contestant, Michael White, 37, both said they were first in the Lake View parade in utero – while their mothers were pregnant.
White’s mother, playwright Vicki Quade, said: “I was pregnant in 1984 with Michael here; I was eight months pregnant. We come here almost every year.
“It’s nice to see the neighborhood,” her son said.
While WOOGMS resumed holding an in-person Labor Day Parade last September, the Memorial Day rally is an “unofficial kick-off to summer,” organizer Jennifer Bernardi said. “It’s super touching.”
The Jesse White Tumblers and drum corps entertained about 1,200 walkers — and, despite the motto, a few observers. Many dogs strutted around in red, white and blue boas, jackets and collars as the parade kicked off from Pine Grove and Wellington Avenues around 11 a.m.
As she watched the high-flying cups, 8-year-old Bella Filippini said, “I thought they were going to break some bones.”
“I really liked it when they did the flips,” said 5-year-old Riley Soria.
Even though he is retiring as Illinois secretary of state after 24 years in that office, the 87-year-old White still plans to attend future WOOGMS parades. He said it and Bud Billiken’s parades are his favorite.
It wouldn’t be a Chicago parade without politics. White introduced Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia, who has White’s endorsement to succeed him.
White made history as the first black person to hold the office, Valencia said, and she predicted that Illinois would make history by electing her as the first woman to hold the office.
Valencia take on Chicago Ald. David Moore (17th) and former State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias during the June 28 Democratic primary.
The WOOGMS parade began on Memorial Day 1963 when Lake View adman Al Weisman gathered a group of children to march and celebrate.
“He was a very creative man and he always had a good sense of humor and thought if we walked in a parade it would be more memorable than watching,” said his son Tony Weisman, now aged 62 years old. “One of our neighbors gave him a fabulous used tricorn hat and a scepter salvaged from garage sales in the neighborhood.
“It’s an idea that lives on,” said Tony Weisman.