Sparky, the 4th of July parade mascot.

The group that runs Evanston’s Fourth of July parade and celebration is in serious need of volunteers and is asking civic-minded individuals to sign up as soon as possible.

In a presentation Wednesday night at the 7th Ward meeting, Bruce Baumberger, long-time trustee of the Evanston Fourth of July Association, said this year’s Independence Day event will “go back to the traditional celebration,” with playground sports, the parade, plus a concert and fireworks at night.

But a flyer handed out at the meeting listed nearly 50 volunteer positions which have to be filled, with less than four months to the big day.

Many of the slots are for parade route marshals, but more than 15 are for operations staffers who will oversee portions of the multifaceted celebration.

Baumberger said the Association “lost a lot of volunteers” after in-person parades were cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID pandemic. And then, at the last minute, the 2022 celebration was called off due to the mass killing at the Highland Park parade.

A 7th Ward resident asked Baumberger what could happen if not enough volunteers sign up.

“If the roles don’t get filled,” Baumberger replied, “we could have people putting their chairs by the parade route without a parade.”

Baumberger quickly added that the Association does have contingency plans to keep the event going, but did not reveal what those plans are.

In an emailed response to questions from Evanston Now, Baumberger said he “may have been a bit flippant in response to the scope of open volunteer positions.”

He added that members of the Board of Trustees have “taken on many of the roles and responsibilities” of key positions such as parade chair and celebration manager, “pending the appointment of more Evanstonians to serve in various volunteer roles.”

The resident who asked whether the parade can take place without enough volunteers knows quite a bit about the celebration.

Pam Swales is past president of the North End Mothers’ Club, the group which organized the first Evanston parade in 1922. Her father-in-law, Tom Swales, was a long-time parade volunteer.

“Evanston lives for the Fourth of July parade,” Pam Swales said, adding that it was “concerning” that so many volunteers are still needed, with so little time before the event.

Swales said the Fourth of July Association even asked the women’s club to take over the annual celebration, sort of a “Back to the Future” for the organization which started the parade in the first place.

However, Swales said the club, which is now called Women for Evanston Youth, to reflect its citywide philanthropic focus, gave “a resounding no.”

Swales indicated it would simply be impossible for the group to run both the 4th of July Celebration and concentrate on its mission of youth-oriented programs, such as scholarship grants, funding a teen reading room at the YWCA and donating to other programs which help children.

This year’s Fourth of July Celebration will observe the 100th anniversary of the event, an observation delayed due to last year’s cancellation.

Many people do not realize that the long-standing parade and related activities are neither government-run nor funded.

The Fourth of July Association relies on contributions and volunteers, and right now, with apologies to the the famous Uncle Sam recruting poster, The Fourth of July Association Wants You!

Baumberger told Evanston Now that the major concern right now is the “long-term health of the association,” with younger volunteers needed to ensure the ongoing viability of the group and the parade.

Baumberger said, “We are committed to doing what is necessary for this year’s celebration,” as well as training newcomers to help the Association’s “next 100 years of service to the community.”

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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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