JOLIET – Spectators held tightly to their Easter bonnets as strong winds whipped down Chicago Street in downtown Joliet on Sunday during the 24th annual Wish Upon A Star Foundation Easter Parade.
The rain and winds earlier in the day had parade organizers watching the weather until the last minute. At 1:30 p.m., the decision was made to go forward with the event.
“We have 80 units participating this year,” said Don West, executive director of the Wish Upon a Star Foundation.
Because of the bad weather, some of the parade units decided not to march this year and attendance was down.
The Joliet Fire Department kicked off the parade, followed by the Joliet Junior High Schools combined band. The Medinah Shriners rode their signature mini-bikes to the applause of the crowd, while the Easter Bunny and Spikes, the Joliet Slammers mascot, greeted children along the parade route.
Kids rushed to pick up candy handed out by those in the parade and competed with each other to fill their bags with the most treats.
There were quite a few dogs marching in the parade, including those up for adoption through the Dog House Humane Group. Karen Bartolomei, who leads the group’s Joliet chapter, also is the owner of Karen’s Pet Grooming and Boarding in Joliet and has participated in the parade for the past 15 years.
“We brought a few of the dogs we have available for adoption. We want to find them good homes,” Bartolomei said.
There weren’t many floats because of the high winds, but the Wish Upon A Star Foundation made sure volunteers had plenty of candy ready on their float to pass out.
With the election coming up April 7, many incumbents and candidates were among those walking the parade route. Mayor Tom Giarrante was surrounded by constituents while greeting and waving to Joliet residents. Mayoral candidate and City Councilman Bob O’Dekirk made his way down Chicago Street with his supporters, addressing parade goers.
While it is not an election year for state Sen. Pat McGuire, D-Joliet, he was among those marching in the parade. McGuire is a yearly supporter of the event, election or not.
“This is a great cause, with great people,” McGuire said.