We’ve come a long way from 2009. That was the year there was not going to be an Independence Day celebration in Riverside, due to financial constraints. 

As one who always loved Riverside’s July 4, I didn’t think that was a good reason and I wasn’t going to take “no” for an answer. I said there would be a parade if it meant JoAnne Kosey and the Little League marching down Longcommon with kazoos. 

Obviously that was a frightening thought to many, and Joe Ballerine whispered in my ear that if I was serious he would help. Hopping on board to make my plan work were Ben Sells, Danny Jisa, Andy Daun and Rey Navarro. 

And that my friends is how Friends of the Fourth came to be, and we are still the same core group in 2016, now aided by Ron Malchiodi and the Riverside Recreation Department.

The first year we raised enough money to have the parade, and it wasn’t long before we realized that keeping the tradition of an old-fashioned Fourth of July was important to not only the group but to the residents of Riverside, who all became Friends of the Fourth through their donations and volunteer help. 

It also meant putting labels and stamps on postcards to get the word out to residents. Who would have thought that here in 2016 we have one of the best celebrations in the western suburbs, extending our “party in the park” to include July 3 with live bands, food and libations? Did I ever imagine I would be having a beer in Guthrie Park, legally? 

The parade on July 4 has always meant a lot to me, and each year I shed a tear or two as I watch all the groups, local and otherwise, strut down Longcommon and see all the people seated along the parade route. Many of the marchers had been in the parade as children and now are walking with their children. .

July 4 always means having a bratwurst and a lemonade; what many of us miss are the potato pancakes that used to be available. Any group wishing to do it again would be welcomed. 

I have already been asked what this year’s Friends of the Fourth T-shirts will be like; you’ll like them and they will be available on July 3.

Who are the Friends of the Fourth? Really, it is all of you.