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Cortland Parade History, Dekalb County, Illinois

As told by Cortland Elementary School Students
Cortland, Illinois

Story Narrative:

Two boys play a trumpet and tuba in a small town parade.

Coming Home: Stories from Main Street is a collaboration that combines the Rural Community Assistance Partnership's "Rural Homecoming" initiative with the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street program. Coming Home engages youth in exploring their town’s past and thinking about its future. This program is a remarkable experience for local participants. Rural youth often feel disconnected from local culture. They may feel that adults do not listen to them or that their town’s history does not matter. This project helps to overcome those barriers.

Students at Cortland Elementary in Dekalb County, Illinois, interviewed the town's mayor, area residents, and students about the history of a beloved parade. The video's interviewers were Jaxen M. and Jaycob Q. Students Yvonne Boose and Jaxen M. were the editors.

Mark Pietrowski (00:06): The parade idea started in 1981 when two children actually went to the town board meeting and mentioned about really wanting permission for the town to do a parade. The mayor at the time granted that permission. Then from there on out, Cortland started having a parade. It had first started out as a Halloween parade.

Sally Coyle (00:35): At Halloween time, they always dressed up in costume to go to school, and they would come down from the school down to where Somonauk Road is, okay, they would come down to Somonauk Road, they would stay on that side because there was no sidewalks over on this side of COR on Somonauk Road. They would stay there. They'd walk down from the school down all the way down one block and then where Casey's is, then they would turn and go up back up that way to the three blocks up there and walk around. Always, the kids loved it because they were in their costumes and showing off. That's what came into the mind of those that started the parade.

Jaxen M. (01:12): My family goes to the parade for entertainment, and my brothers sometimes likes to get the candy.

Speaker 4 (01:22): In your opinion, what is the best part of the parade?

Jaxen M. (01:25): The best part of the parade in my opinion is watching the floats and seeing if there's anybody I know in the parade.

Skakerra P. (01:31): My favorite part of the parade was really mostly the songs in the parade because we've put so much work and effort into the songs and the effort that we put into the song was so hardworking that we were just happy to even be a part of the parade and did so very well in the parade as well. I'm kind of happy that we got a chance to be in the parade and how the songs turned out because when you're playing, you're like, "We're probably not going to finish the songs in time, and we're a bit late on this song, on that song." It's kind of like if we going to finish them in time, which we did, thanks to the help of Mr. Balika.

Tessa S. (02:15): I think my favorite part was definitely the cadence, because I'm going to be honest with you, in some parts of the song, I completely forgot the notes, so I was just looking at the other trumpets like... But the cadence was always fun because it was just a time that you can take a breather and calm down, there's nothing really you need to do.

Mark Pietrowski (02:35): My favorite part of the Cortland parade are seeing all the smiling faces on the sidelines of kids that are waving and seeing all of the really neat floats that are entered into the parade. Then also going down the line of parade participants before the parade even starts, because I'm able to help present reward checks to the winners of the best float and things like that, and just kind of compliment different individuals on their floats and instrument playing and dance groups and everything like that, and just really enjoy all the talents that people bring to the parade.

Skakerra P. (03:19): We put so much work and the effort into the songs that we play that we remember. I may still memorize the songs even if it done been like a few months since we played them. We still memorize the songs without the sheet. It's kind of like it sticks in our brain because it sounds so good and peaceful.

Mark Pietrowski (03:40): The parade route has changed over the years because the town of Cortland has gotten larger. Now what the parade route is, is it starts over at Loves Road, which is by the DeKalb Municipal Airport, and then it winds through different neighborhoods in Cortland, it goes down Somonauk Road, which is kind of the main stretch through Cortland, and then it ends in Cortland Community Park, which is next to the Lion’s Den building.

Sally Coyle (04:12): There's been a few times that there's been a break in the parade. You know why? Because they have to cross the railroad tracks and you know what happens? A train comes. Here we sit like this for a long time, waiting until the train goes through so the parade can keep going again.

Mark Pietrowski (04:27): The parade is important to the town of Cortland because it's a celebration of the town and it's a celebration of our community. We can have a bank participate in the community that's a community bank, but we also have different nonprofits that'll take part. We have the town of Cortland, we have our own float in there, the Cortland Lions Club. It's really just a celebration of community.

Jaxen M. (04:53): If the parade doesn't happen every year, some people might get angry and be sad.

Asset ID: 2023.05.02
Themes: Parades, festivals, traditions, events, holidays, Halloween, children, mayor, music, band, dance, small towns, community, joy, celebrations
Date recorded: September 2022-January 2023
Length of recording: 0:05:09
Related traveling exhibition/program: Coming Home Student Documentaries
Sponsor or affiliated organization: Cortland Elementary School in collaboration with Dekalb County History Center and WNIJ, Dekalb County, Illinois
More information or related assets: and

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