HIGHLAND | Real-life heroes led the town’s annual Twilight Parade as it stepped off Wednesday with hundreds of spectators lining the entire 2.7 mile route.
“People always ask what the theme of the parade is. It’s about the Fourth of July,” said Erica Wolak, parade organizer and a member of the sponsoring Highland Council of Community Events.
U.S. Army Spc. Raymond Hicks, 20, marched at the head of the parade carrying the American flag in this salute to the nation’s past, present and future.
A Highland resident who enlisted in July 2011, Hicks returned on June 27 from a tour of duty at Camp Arifijan in Kuwait where he served as a telecommunications specialist.
“I’m welcomed home,” he said about carrying the flag during the parade.
Following immediately behind were military veterans on a float sponsored by Highland American Legion Post 180 and Highland VFW Post 1109 and on motorcycles.
Another hero served as grand marshal.
Beth Roche, of Highland, survived the April 15 Boston Marathon bomb blasts with severe injuries to her left leg. She returned home recently after surgeries at Tufts Medical Center and rehabilitation at Boston’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.
Wolak said 100 units signed up for the parade including floats, decorated cars, walkers, canines, the Highland High School marching band and a number of political figures.
Some 70 volunteers turned out to march with U.S. Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-Merrillville.
“It’s just a great opportunity for people to celebrate this great nation,” said Visclosky. “Our history is a continuum. We still need to give back and work so the freedoms we enjoy stay in place.”
In neighboring Munster, hundreds flocked to Centennial Park for the town’s annual Independence Day celebration.
Food, a beer garden and entertainment by Jamrose, featuring singer Nicole Jamrose, kept crowds busy while they waited for the fireworks’ display. The fireworks were again sponsored by the Community Foundation.
Wednesday also saw the launch of the five-day Summerfest celebration at Cedar Lake’s town complex that includes fireworks and much more.
The first night of the lakeside festivities featured the flag-raising ceremony, the midway with carnival rides, games, bingo and a beer garden.
In Like Flynn, an acoustic party band, took to the stage followed by NoN-Jovi –Bon Jovi Tribute with music. Fireworks followed.
The festival continues through Sunday. For a complete schedule, visit www.cedarlakesummerfest.com.