WHITING — The booming tenor voice of Jim Cornelison at the steps of City Hall made it obvious that this was no ordinary Fourth of July parade in downtown Whiting.
It was the 100th installment of the popular event, and Cornelison, famous for performing "The Star Spangled Banner" before Chicago Blackhawks games, served as grand marshal and belted out the national anthem to a supportive and enthusiastic crowd prior to the start of the parade.
It was Cornelison's first visit to the city, and he left impressed.
"It's charming downtown," Cornelison said. "It's very nice to be here."
Mayor Joe Stahura called it one of the longest continuous running parades in the state and said crowds over the years have been estimated at between 25,000 and 50,000, depending on the weather.
"From the crowd we saw last night at the fireworks show, which we think exceeded 20,000, I think it's gonna be a pretty good crowd today," Stahura said.
The large number of parade entries stretched down Indianapolis Boulevard almost all the way to Calumet Avenue. The parade moved down Indianapolis Boulevard to 119th Street, where it turned and continued to the Mascot Hall of Fame on Front Street.
It included the usual participants such as schools, businesses, organizations and politicians, but also crowd pleasers such as the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile and well known characters like Clifford the Big Red Dog.
Lora Cairo, of Whiting, roped off her space at 119th and Oliver Streets the day before and sat at her chair applying sunscreen almost two hours before the parade started at 10 a.m.
She attends each year and enjoys the family-friendly atmosphere and celebrating America's independence.
"Whiting is such a tight-knit community that we all pretty much know each other, so it's like one big neighborhood block party that happens," Cairo said.
Nick Karin, of Dyer, has attended the parade since he was a child and loves the tradition.
"Every year they try to top themselves to get better and better," Karin said. "And they do."
He enjoyed the addition of Cornelison as the surprise guest for the 100th anniversary.
"It was like we were at the Blackhawks game," Karin said.
La Porte parade
In La Porte, military planes roaring above the applause of an estimated 50,000 people kicked off the town's parade.
Two A-10 Warthogs from the Air National Guard base in Ft. Wayne and a MedFlight helicopter out of South Bend soared above La Porte’s downtown before the parade started down Lincolnway.
Leading the parade were three police officers on motorcycles and a 60 foot by 30 foot American flag carried by 50 Boy Scouts and their scoutmasters.
A man and woman dressed as Uncle Sam and the Statue of Liberty were in front of the flag waving to the crowd.
"It’s always an honor and a blessing to do so,’’ said Mark Williams, a scoutmaster dressed as Uncle Sam.
For at least 30 years, La Porte has been declared state capital on July 4 by the governor.
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An even longer La Porte tradition is swarms of people marking their spots to watch the parade the day before with lawn chairs, blankets, canopies and yellow tape around stakes.
Some residents like Mark Lynch, 46, camp out with family and friends along the route doing things like playing corn hole.
Carrie Hale, 35, said she’s always watched from the same spot near Adams Street but for the first time wore a red, white and blue cowboy hat to the parade this year.
"I’ve always been a country girl and I like horses, so it just suits me,’’ she said.
The parade in Portage on Willowcreek Road and Central Avenue contained about half the 110 floats in the La Porte parade, but patriotism in both communities seemed equal in supply.
Isabell Marquez, a Portage High School senior, represented Distinguished Young Women in a convertible.
The group provides college scholarships and life skills training to qualifying applicants nationwide.
"I like to see everybody’s faces and the little kids," Marquez said. "They all seem very happy."
The five children of Randall Alexander and his wife, Margaret, from Lake Station, were among the kids flocking to candy tossed out by seemingly everyone in the parade.
"They’re loving it," Randall Alexander said.
Water balloon yo-yos were also a hit with the kids.
Bob Iatarola, originally from Portage, comes here from Bloomington to offer the toys from his wagon every year.
He also gives demonstrations to show how they work.
"It teaches the kids hand-eye coordination,’" said Iatarola, who expected to make about 2,000 sales.
Crown Point parade
Half of the square encompassing the Old Lake County Courthouse was blocked off as "Take Me Home, Country Roads," among other songs, blared from a DJ tent at the corner of Main and Joliet streets, while residents of Crown Point and surrounding communities celebrated Fourth of July.
With temperatures reaching almost 90 degrees, most people were dressed in light-colored clothing, the majority of it being America-themed. Some people wore sunglasses or had umbrellas to keep the sun off them. Despite the temperatures, hundreds of people came out to celebrate America's independence.
Rebecca Porter and Ariel Jones came with their families to celebrate. Jones’ daughter participated in a karate group in the parade, and Porter said she came to the parade because her hometown of St. John didn't have any events planned for the holiday.
“Remembering everybody, that’s what the Fourth of July’s all about: Independence,” Porter said.
Times Reporter Ty Vinson contributed to this story.