Annual parade designed to show Knoch Knolls’ spirit

The Knoch Knolls Homeowners Association staged its 11th annual Fourth of July parade Friday, drawing about 250 people to an event that’s become an annual mid-summer event to attend in south Naperville.

“At a time when in some places in the world you see summary executions, here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, you can do what you want without fear of retribution,” Association President Jim Lawlor said before the parade kicked off shorty after 1:30 p.m.

Lawlor started the parade when he became association president to encourage people to “get to know your neighbors.”

In a change of strategy, those neighbors led the parade this year, starting from Spring Brook Elementary School and marching east on Gateshead Drive before finishing at Knoch Knolls Park, where children enjoyed games and refreshments were served.

Trailing behind the residents was a Naperville fire truck adorned with a “Bike Bald” sign honoring the non-profit that raises research funds to fight childhood cancer; a 1947 military-style, Jeep sponsored by VFW Judd Kendall Post 3873 and American Legion Post 43; and several cars carrying City Council members and other local dignitaries.

For City Councilman Grant Wehrli, since Knoch Knolls Park was once being part of his family’s farm, there was special meaning to the parade.

“It’s home,” he said of the space where he played as a boy. “There’s not a piece of property I know better.”

Wehrli was glad that if the property had to pass from his family, it became a community asset.

“It’s a great use,” he said. “It means so much that it became a park.”

Mayor George Pradel marched in his final Knoch Knolls parade and admitted to having mixed feelings.

“It’s wonderful,” he said. “I’m so glad to see the crowd is growing every year. It shows that we respect our vets.”

Although it was his last parade as mayor, Pradel saw the upside and promised to continue coming back to Knoch Knolls every July 4.

“Next year I can march with the veterans,” said Pradel, a Marine Corps veteran himself.

Councilwoman Judith Brodhead rode with her husband in the family’s bright red, 1999 Mazda Miata.

“I love the Fourth of July parades,” she said.

Brodhead noted that there wasn’t one central Naperville parade honoring Independence Day, but several neighborhood events.

“We get to spread out a little,” she said. “They are all distinctive.”

Matt and Bekka Moran recently moved to the Knoch Knolls area and attended their first July 4 parade with 11-month-old Rory.

“It’s really exciting to see the neighborhood do things like this,” Matt said.

Laura Begley agreed, saying the turnout spoke well of the community.

“It’s a great way to show community spirit,” she said.

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