The Northbrook community has enjoyed a Fourth of July celebration every year since at least 1949, when a newspaper article reported that 150 spectators attended a small parade. A fireworks program began in the mid-1950s. The early shows were a joint effort of the Northbrook Jaycees and the American Legion and took place at Glenbrook North High School.
In 1966, the Northbrook parade attracted national attention. That was the year that the Park District, YMCA, scouts, and civic and neighborhood groups carried 1,000 transistor radios while marching from Greenbriar School to Village Green Park. The radios were tuned to a local radio station playing patriotic music. The parade―without bands―drew an estimated 22,000 spectators and was featured on WMAQ-TV News, the national NBC Huntley Brinkley Report, and on The Today Show the following morning. The parade was so successful that it was repeated in 1967.
In 1968, the Northbrook 4th of July Association was formed by representatives of the Jaycees, Northbrook Civic Foundation, American Legion and Knights of Columbus―with support from the Village―to sponsor the parade and the fireworks. The all-volunteer association became an Illinois Not-For-Profit Corporation on June 20, 1968.
Breakfast in the Park was added as part of the Bicentennial festivities in 1976, and an ice cream social was held for the first time in 2006 in conjunction with Park Fest.
After 45 years of planning the celebration, the Northbrook 4th of July Association disbanded in 2013, citing financial challenges and a lack of volunteers. The Northbrook Park District and Village of Northbrook agreed to collaborate to bring the holiday activities to the community.
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