LAPORTE | It was like hitting the jackpot for the tens of thousands of people who saw a World War II plane surprisingly joined by two other aircraft fly above LaPorte to kick off the annual Fourth of July parade.
Federal budget cuts stopped a long tradition of military jets zooming above the parade route this year.
After hearing the news a few days ago, Stuart Glenn, 47, volunteered to fly over the city in his 1942 Vultee Valiant BT-13A, which was used during the war seven decades ago to train fighter pilots.
Unexpectedly, he was joined by a 1956 Beech G35 piloted by John Landerwerlen and a 1960s Varga Kuchina operated by Dr. Damien Deter.
The three pillots made two passes over the city about 10 a.m. to signal the start of Thursday's 120-unit parade on Lincolnway and J Street that lasted more than two hours.
"I enjoyed it as much as any flyover we've had," said Ken Schreiber, the former LaPorte High School baseball head coach.
The planes did not travel nearly as fast or generate the deafening sounds as the modern military jets but still drew applause from the enthusiastic crowd.
Riding on the top of a pickup truck with her legs through the sunroof, LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo said the flyover represented something greater in terms of attitude.
"If life hands you lemons, we make lemonade. We made it work," Milo said.
Even more satisfying, perhaps, to many people along the parade route was the opportunity to spend time with loved ones.
Justin Kleist, 31, came out with his wife, Brynn, and their seven children.
"Spending time with the kids and being with family," Kleist said when asked what he enjoys most about the parade.
Other highlights included LaPorte resident Tony Hendricks sitting 40 feet above the pavement peddling a tricycle with a front wheel measuring 12 feet in diameter and retired LaPorte firefighter John Mulzon driving a 1950 red fire pumper truck he purchased three years ago.
"It's pretty nice. Everybody is always waving to us," Mulzon said.