Evanston residents who planned to line Central Street for the 4th of July parade instead spent the day picking up their lawn chairs and their emotions

The Evanston parade was officially cancelled at 11:39 a.m., about an hour after a gunman opened fire at the Highland Park parade, killing six and wounding at least two dozen others.

Jerry Hlava, who lives on Central Street, took his picnic table and chairs back inside, while feeling incredibly sad.

Jerry Hlava taking in table and chairs from parade route.

“It’s a horrible tragedy,” Hlava said, of the Highland Park shooting.

“The first thing I thought was I hope they cancel the Evanston parade.”

David Komie was also going to watch the 78-entry parade from his lawn facing Central Street.

“We’re in terrible shape as a country,” Komie said, adding “we’re so hyper-militarized and awash in weapons. There’s a decay of truth and civic norms.”

Bruce and Karen Stern were visiting from Wisconsin, and were going to watch the parade with Evanston family members.

Bruce and Karen Stern (center and right) pack up to leave parade route.

Karen Stern said there is no simple solution to mass shootings. More mental health services are necessary, she noted, and also called for tougher law enforcement.

“The criminals have more rights” than do law-abiding citizens, she said.

The deaths and injuries are, of course, the major aspect of this tragedy, and in the forefront of everybody’s minds.

But cancellation of the Evanston parade (along with the evening fireworks), after two years of COVID-mandated virtual events, was certainly a sad sidebar. This was going to be the 100th anniversary celebration for the Evanston Fourth of July Association.

Jamie Black, celebration manager for the association, drove a golf cart up and down what would have been the parade route, giving out souvenir programs to anyone who was picking up lawn chairs.

Celebration Manager Jamie Black.

“I’m still trying to process it,” Black said.

Parades are great fun for kids. Seth and Sarah Dreier were going to bring their five-year old daughter. Instead, they had the difficult job of telling her why the parade was off.

“We told her there was a shooter in the town where her friends live,” so the parade had to be canceled, Sarah Dreier said.

Seth and Sarah Dreier with infant son. Daughter was inside house.

The Dreiers felt it was better to tell their daughter the truth than to make something up, and at least her friends are OK.

The local parade route was going to be staffed by 25 State Department exchange students from Africa, who are in Evanston for a summer leadership institute.

Kai Mollel, from Tanzania, said she “was really looking forward” to her first Fourth of July.

“I was hoping to experience America,” Mollel added.

Unfortunately, she did.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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  1. I was in Fishers Indiana last night for a massive mega-patriotic border line white nationalist Fourth of July celebration. I think we stood up for the national anthem and related songs at least 5 times. It was fine but even I (a white dude) felt uncomfortable.

    This morning, I find out the town next door had a bunch of folks blown away by a mass shooter. I feel like the crowd I was surrounded with last night had a hand in it. It’s hard not to think that the folks of the suburban town in Indiana would’ve stood up and applauded an AR-15 if it came up on the big screen. They surely will vote for the the right of that 18-20 year old to blow away children election after election after election. Meanwhile, our own elected officials (looking at you Jan Schakowsky and Brad Schneider) will do very little about this, complain that they don’t have the power to do anything and use it to fundraise (“give us $12 and help fight the NRA!”). Last time I called Jan’s office, I got some lengthy response about how she’s trying to enact change but is stuck on x, y, and z.

    Nothing will change. We are failing our children. Our congresspeople are failing our children and half of the country actively root for the AR-15 that blows them away. Feeling sad and mad about all this.

  2. The divide between people is growing. Trump was not the starting point, he only allowed the hateful minority to have a bigger and louder voice. Our state legislators are finally able to enact laws and regulations that benefit the citizens of Illinois. However, that is not enough. We need our federal government/legislators to also have the ability to do the same. Too many obstacles stand in the way of making progress. Gun control is a perfect example. The Bill passed and signed by the President is yet another water down piece of legislation to get enough votes on both sides. Somehow the values and common sense have been lost. The ability of politicians to think outside the box and seek solutions is not there for many of them. Yesterday’s mass shooting is yet another example of so many things that are wrong in this country. The ordinary citizen is taking on the burden of this inaction with their lives and little sympathy from the hateful minority. I wish I had a solution but my grief stands in the way of clear thinking. My heart (once again) goes out to all in Highland Park.

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