URBANA – Only a reliable breeze and the speed of the Clydesdales kept George Washington and Betsy Ross from cooking in their carriage on the Fourth of July.
Urbana residents Mark Lovingfoss, who played the founding father, and his mother, Virginia, were dressed in heavy, bright and synthetic patriotic garb for their entry, which won first place in the horse category of the Champaign County Freedom Celebration parade.
Out of sight of anachronism seekers was a chest full of bottled water and portable fans, as temperatures soared past 90 in high humidity.
Mrs. Lovingfoss was grateful that the Clydesdales were no sluggards. "As long as we're moving, you don't really mind the heat," she said.
With education as the theme, the Illini Prairie Chapter of the American Red Cross was Educating About Blood Donation; the Salvation Army was Educating Through Sharing and Caring; and Garcia's was presumably Educating About Deep-Dish Pizza.
Parkland College President Zelema Harris was the grand marshal.
It's hard to quantify, but in the wake of the Iraqi war, more flags seemed to be on display.
John Olden, an organizer of the parade, estimated the crowd at 15,000 to 18,000.
Sgt. Scott Friedlein, the special events coordinator with the Champaign police, agreed with the estimate. There were no arrests, he said.
A patriotic highlight of the parade was a float that family and friends decked out with large photographs of Army Spc. Cory A. Hubbell, an Urbana man who died June 25 after being hospitalized in Kuwait with breathing problems.
Among those waving flags on the float was Spc. Hubbell's best friend, Tyler Bickers, and three soldiers who were with Spc. Hubbell in the Middle East.
Biker's fiancee, Kathy Murphy of Philo, said it was important to remember soldiers on the Fourth, especially those from our area.
"This is the least we could do," she said. "We really miss him. He really served us all. There are no words to describe him; he really touched us all in his own way."
Nearby, Erin Jessup of Mahomet was celebrating her fifth birthday by riding in an air-conditioned muscle car as part of the Champaign-Urbana schools' contribution to a parade dedicated this year to education.
It was the first year for the schools to officially enter, said Gail Rost, executive director of the Champaign-Urbana Schools Foundation.
Teachers and administrators were decked out in a uniform of Old Navy T-shirts, bought because they had flags on the front and came in at $5, Rost said. Flat graduation caps were also part of the uniform.
The Anti-War, Anti-Racism Float offered a differing view on a day that celebrates our freedoms.
"Education is not being supported by the current administration," member Linda Evans said. "Military spending is taking money directly away from urgent domestic needs."
The float was of a tank firing at the traditional red schoolhouse.
You can reach Paul Wood at (217) 351-5203 or via e-mail at email@example.com.