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Fourth Of July Parade-Watching Gets Cutthroat In Evanston

roberts250 Bob Roberts
Bob Roberts is a native of Wilmette who has worked in Chicago media...
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It’s Dibs In Evanston For Fourth Parade

fireworks 07042012 Fourth Of July Parade Watching Gets Cutthroat In Evanston
WBBM 780/105.9FM

(CBS) — It’s dibs, suburban style — and just as serious as dibs in certain Chicago neighborhoods after a big snowstorm.

If you are trying to save a curbside spot to view the 92nd annual North Evanston Fourth of July Parade on Central Street now, you’re late. WAY late, WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports.

After seemingly endless debate and discussion, the city of Evanston struck a truce with residents five years ago, enacting an ordinance that permits people to save spots in front of their homes and businesses only after 6 a.m. July 1 each year.

Once again, this year, prime spots were reserved within minutes.

The city was prompted by a scene worthy of some Chicago neighborhoods in the dead of winter –- and just as serious.  The ordinance was enacted only after several residents began roping off parkway space and putting chairs curbside three weeks before the parade, which runs along Central Street in Evanston from Central Park Avenue to Ashland Avenue, ending at Northwestern University’s Ryan Field.

“Thirty years ago, people would go down and see the July Third fireworks downtown, and come home and put stuff out,” John Darrow, a long-time north Evanston resident, says. “It gradually got earlier and earlier.”

Darrow said the dibs are worth the hassle to see entries you won’t find anywhere else, including such traditions as the Precision Lawn Mower Marchers and the North End Bunco, Parcheesi and Weight Dropping Auxiliary’s Dixieland Jazz Band.

Although constrained by ordinance, the dibs process remains colorful to some and an unsightly mess to others. Spots are saved by 55-gallon drums, crime scene tape, rope, bungee cords, benches, a love seat, other chairs and tarps of all descriptions and enough lawn furniture to stock a few big box stores. Thousands will be curbside when the parade begins at 2 p.m. Friday.

A teenager named Jack tried to figure out how to mow the parkway in front of one apartment building without creating havoc among all the strategically-placed chairs.

The last ones to be put back in place were “alien,” so far as he could determine.

“I don’t think those chairs belong to residents,” he said.

Newbies to Central Street are astonished by what they saw early Tuesday.

“I came outside early Tuesday and saw people putting their chairs out,” she said.  “It must be something.”

If only she knew.

The parade is one of the oldest in Illinois, and was founded by the long-gone North End Mother’s Club in 1922. Today, it’s under the control of the not-for-profit, all-volunteer Evanston 4th of July Association, which also sponsors games at nine Evanston parks and playgrounds, a fun run preceding the parade on Central Street, a lakefront concert at 7:30 p.m., followed by fireworks at dusk.