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Twilight Parade kicks off 2018 Illinois State Fair

State Journal Register

Friday, August 10, 2018  |  Article  |  John Reynolds

State Fair, Fairs

For many people in Springfield like Diana Smith, the annual Illinois State Fair Twilight Parade is a family tradition.

“I’ve been coming out for quite a few years, ever since my kids were small,” Smith said as her grandchildren, ages 5 and 6 watched the parade on Thursday. “The kids love the candy. I like seeing the different candidates and floats. There’s a lot to see.”


The Twilight Parade, the traditional kickoff for the Illinois State Fair, started in Lincoln Park a little after 5:30 p.m. Local police and fire departments were near the front of the parade. The parade also included political candidates, floats, World War II re-enactors, Shriners and school marching bands.


One of the bands was the 200-strong Normal Marching Band, which had musicians from both Normal West and Normal Community high schools.


Ryan Budzinski, one of the band directors, said Thursday marked the first time the combined band marched in a parade.


Illinois State Fair Ribbon Cutting and Twilight Parade

“We have two high schools in our school district and both high schools participated in the Twilight Parade last year. This is the first time we have put the marching bands from the two schools together and its one marching band,” Budzinski said. ”(Marching in the Twilight Parade) is a great deal of fun. It’s a wonderful event to be a part of. It’s really rewarding. It’s one of the friendlier and more interactive audiences we see through the course of the year.”


Illinois Agriculture Director Raymond Poe, speaking just before the start of the parade, said his people are ready for the fair.


“We’ve been blessed with rain this year. There are flowers everywhere. We’re ready to go,” Poe said.


For years, the Twilight Parade started at North Grand Avenue and headed north along Ninth Street and Peoria Road toward the fairgrounds. Last year, it started inside Lincoln Park and headed east along Sangamon Avenue to the fairgrounds. Fair officials said the change resulted in fewer closed streets and Lincoln Park provides more shade and handicapped accessible restrooms.


Poe said the people in the parade like the park venue because it’s in the shade.


“They can get off the pavement and onto the grass where it’s a lot cooler,” Poe said.


Springfield Park District Police Chief Laimutis “Limey” Nargelenas, also speaking just before the parade started, said they had a few traffic bottlenecks, but everything was going smoothly.


Alan Escobar of Springfield, who was watching the parade in the park with his 2 ½-year-old granddaughter and other family members, said he didn’t think people had figured out where they could park and then watch the parade from the park.


The Escobars live across the street from Lincoln Park, so parking wasn’t an issue.


“I like to bring out the grandkids, see the fire engines, the farm tractors and the marching bands. ... We’re having a great time,” Escobar said.


According to the National Weather Service, the temperature at 6 p.m. in Springfield was 87 degrees and the heat index was 92 degrees.


For Smith, the heat wasn’t an issue inside Lincoln Park.


“It’s really nice out here with the breeze,” Smith said.


As the parade headed east on Sangamon Avenue, the crowd got thicker.


Jayna Kinney of Fairfield, a town in southern Illinois, was watching the parade from the north side of Sangamon with her daughter, Johna Kinney, 10. The family was in town for the parade because Johna had the top vegetable display at the Wayne County Fair and earned the right to compete at the state level.


Jayna said this was the first time she had seen the Twilight Parade.


“I liked all the cops and all the fire trucks. I’ve never seen that many fire trucks in my whole life. That was awesome. We enjoyed it,” Jayna said.


The Illinois State Fair runs through Aug. 19. More information on the fair is available at www.illinoisstatefair.info.