200 guests for a Pet Parade party? No problem, for two La Grange families
Jim Kelly fixes himself a hot dog as he tries to keep more than 200 people fed from the grill. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 8, 2012 8:14AM
Throwing a party for 200 guests might prompt a little panic in some hosts, but two La Grange veterans of post-Pet Parade festivities hardly break a sweat.
“It’s just a fun, very casual event to celebrate the day,” said Alison Kelly, who lives a few blocks from the end of the parade at Lyons Township High School.
“I grew up in La Grange, and my parents always had a party right after the parade,” Kelly said. “I just kind of followed in their footsteps. It’s a tradition, like the greatest day of the year around La Grange, and it still is.”
Alison and Jim Kelly have hosted 14 post-parade parties with their four children. The family sets up for up to 300 guests, walks over to watch along the parade route and then dashes home to meet friends around 11 a.m.
“It’s always a huge crowd, 200 to 300 and a ton of kids,” Alison Kelly said. “It’s very loose. People stop by for a hot dog or a beer or pop and keep going. It’s a fun beginning to summer.”
With many family members in the area, Alison Kelly said she’s fortunate to tap some musically talented ones to perform for the party. Her niece, Josie Dunne, a sophomore at LT, sang this year. A nephew, Ryan Silver, who graduated from LT in 2008, performed in prior years.
Alison Kelly said she enjoys taking out a vintage Pet Parade banner from her parents, Jim and Joan Dunne.
“My dad had a convertible, and he used to drive in the parade, but I never was in the parade,” she recalled. “We were always just having fun with it. We were a family of seven kids, and the Pet Parade still is the most magical day of the year for us.”
Guests arrive much earlier on parade day for Suzan and Carl Raycroft and their four children, because they live south of the official parade route on La Grange Road, but in the heart of the staging area. In fact, one group assembles in the driveway.
“A good friend purchased a very old fire truck, and the Indian Guides and Princesses come on Friday night. The kids decorate the truck in our driveway.” Suzan Raycroft said. “They pull out when it’s their turn to be in the parade.”
Friends also gather at the Raycroft home early on parade day, prompting a menu of doughnuts, pastries and bagels, as well as delicacies from White Castle, a favorite of Carl Raycroft. Later, there are a table of sweets, hot dogs and burgers, adult beverages and a keg of root beer.
“It’s very much a neighborhood thing. We put out a few tables, and everyone who shows up comes with a plate of food or beverages,” Suzan Raycroft said. “Everyone just hangs out and watches the parade.”
A new venture this year was a fundraising project for the LT Relay for Life effort to fight cancer. In support of a classmate with leukemia, Maitlin Raycroft, 16, and friends on a Relay team sold treats on the sidewalk and in front of Palmer Place.
Neighbors were relieved when they heard the family would be in town this year and hosting a parade viewing party.
“Last year, we couldn’t do it. My oldest two children play travel sports and we had to be in two different fields 45 minutes north and 45 minutes west of here,” Suzan Raycroft remembered. “I sent out an email to let people know.
“This year, I sent an email saying we’re back, and everyone was happy to hear,” she said.