CHICAGO (CBS) — In East Lakeview this Labor Day, there were no spectators in the annual WOOGMS Parade – only participants.
The 56th annual WOOGMS Parade stepped off at Wellington and Pine Grove avenues Monday morning. The parade proceeds through a compact area – north on Pine Grove a block to Barry Avenue, east on Barry Avenue to Sheridan Road, south on Sheridan Road to Diversey Parkway, and east on Diversey Parkway to Lake Shore Drive West.
The one-of-a-kind event began as a do-it-yourself parade. DNAinfo reported in 2013 that it started in 1963 when Oakdale Avenue resident Al Weisman’s neighbor gave him a five-foot flagpole – and he decided to hold a march with the flagpole accompanied by local kids.
On that occasion, fewer than 10 children attended – with one girl strumming the Israeli national anthem “Hatikva” on a violin, DNAinfo reported.
But the parade took off and continues on 56 years later.
Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg wrote about participating in the parade in his memoir, “You Were Never in Chicago.” He noted that Al Weisman’s son Tony had taken over by the time he arrived in the neighborhood, and the Jesse White Tumblers also often participated.
“We’d hear a drum calling the neighbors to assemble – how nineteenth-century is that? – and hurry downstairs to gather before the impressive Weisman home, listen to a speech from Tony, and be led in the Pledge of Allegiance,” Steinberg wrote. “There was a definite whiff of the squire greeting his yeomen on the saint’s day about the whole thing.”
WOOGMS stands for Wellington-Oakdale Old Glory Marching Society. The parade’s motto is, “Everybody marches, nobody watches.