The La Porte Jaycees kicked off La Porte’s Independence Day celebration with their 69th annual 4th of July parade, which hosted over 50,000 parade-goers. The parade, that stretches from Al’s East to Al’s West along La Porte’s main drag, is one of the biggest parade celebrations in the state of Indiana. La Porte is deemed the Capital of Indiana for the Day, and its title holds truth. This 2.5 mile stretch is the route where 113 dignitaries were honored for the celebration of America’s independence.
“My favorite ‘small-world’ story that I routinely share as proof that La Porte is the Hub of Awesome is centered on the La Porte Jaycees Fourth of July Parade. The parade had such a lasting impact on one of the flyover pilots who conducted countless such missions throughout his career as a Naval Aviator that he still specifically remembered La Porte 20 years later. His experience was so memorable due to the organization of the Jaycees to have him land at Grissom Air Force Base after performing the flyover, receive a police escort to then rush him back to La Porte in order to appear as the most popular entry in the parade at its tail end. His recounting of this fond experience was shared with me while we were both serving at a NATO Summit in Belgrade, Serbia 20 years after his visit,” La Porte Mayor Blair Milo said. “The small world irony of the story is we discovered those twenty years prior, I had been a girl in pigtails and red, white and blue overalls who rode in the parade car with him, with a photograph to prove it. These festivities help recognize the true meaning of Independence Day with the celebration of family, freedom and a dedication to a cause higher than one’s self. By doing so in such an effective fashion, it’s made La Porte a highly memorable community for participants near and far.”
The parade began its festivities with the flyover of two A10 Warthogs flown by the U.S. Air force. The crowd clapped and cheered as they flew overhead, twisting and turning in the sky.
“There’s nothing in the world that compares to the rumble of the fighter jets emblematic of our military strength. Having had the opportunity to serve on two deployments with aircraft carrier strike groups, we’d hear the roar of the jet engines and remark to one another, ‘That right there…that’s the sound of freedom,’” Milo said.
Once the sky was cleared, the streets began filling with police men and women, veterans, EMS, floats and more.
The sea of community members stretched farther than the eye could see. Children, teenagers and adults camped out in lawn chairs, blankets and under tents on sidewalks, in the grass and even in the intersection of side streets.
This year was a little different than last, however. There were a few additions made to this parade - a few dignitaries that have never been a part of something like this before - until now.
The new additions included Grand Celebration Marshals, The Henningsons, Grand Parade Marshals, La Porte High School (LPHS) Marching Band, LPHS Slicer Football Team and the New Prairie Cougar Football Team. The Honorary Parade Marshals are Justin Kiel, Matthew Bartels and Joey Tomal, the 2015 La Porte High School’s Valedictorian and Salutatorian, respectively.
Bartels said, “It was my first time riding in the parade and it’s very exciting to see it from the ‘other side.’ The Jaycees invited Joey and I to be honorary Marshals as the salutatorian and valedictorian of LPHS, as we are both excited to represent our school.”
None of this could have been possible without the help of the La Porte Jaycees and their President, Carrie Campbell.
“There are a lot of special people in our community that take time out of their busy schedules to make sure the Jaycees have what they need for the 4th of July celebration. There are no words to thank those individuals enough. As President of the La Porte Jaycees, I have never been so excited to put on my stripes for the parade.” Campbell said. “Many people may think that we simply wear referee shirts to differentiate our members from others, but those stripes that we wear are earned. They mean hard work and dedication to a cause that we love. As La Porte Jaycees, we believe that service to humanity is the best work of life.”
This year, the Jaycees also teamed up with IU Health La Porte Hospital, La Porte Savings Bank and Horizon Bank. The Jaycees, La Porte Chrysler and Bethany Lutheran Church are displaying a unified mission of community service by holding concerts and raffling off a jeep before the fireworks in support of local law enforcement.
“When we celebrate Independence Day by working together as a community to celebrate all of those things that represent the great idea of America, it honors those Revolutionary heroes of so long ago by carrying the work forward. Our struggles are different than they were of 1776, but no less demanding of unified solutions created through dedicated servants working together for a common good,” Milo said. “When our community comes together to celebrate Independence Day, it shows the heart of who we are as a people, where despite our differences, we will always come together to work hard for a common good.”