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Swedish Days Parade thrills crowds in Geneva

GENEVA – A festive mood surrounded Geneva High School on Sunday afternoon as hundreds of participants in about a hundred entries lined up for the 64th annual Swedish Days Parade.

Strains of “God Bless America” could be heard as a band rehearsed, and a light summer breeze carried the scent of sunscreen.

Like many others seeking relief from the near 90-degree heat, members of the Geneva River Rats swim team waited for the 1 p.m. start under a tree. Head coach Joe Neukirch said this was the nonprofit’s fifth year participating in the parade.

Chris Ranallo, who will take over as head coach next year, said the parade is publicity for the team, whose members were encouraged to make signs for the event.

“It’s fun for the kids, too,” Neukirch said.

Nearby, members of the Greater Geneva Art Guild held pallets and wore paint-stained clothes. One member even dressed up as Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting, “The Mona Lisa.”

Lorraine Ochsner is president of the relatively new group – it began about a year and a half ago – and said members hoped the parade would give their organization more exposure.

The guild got about a mile’s worth of publicity as it followed the parade’s course of Anderson Boulevard, State Street and Third Street. Many spectators clustered in the shade, often on lawn chairs, slurping Big Gulps, water and other cool drinks as a digital bank sign broadcast a temperature of 89 degrees.

Katy Queen traveled from Schaumburg to watch her 9-year-old daughter, Alyssa, march with the West Suburban Homeschool Band. About five other children joined her.

“They’re hot,” Queen said, noting they brought an umbrella for shade and juice boxes – which were gone halfway into the approximately two-hour parade – for refreshment.

On Third Street, Erin Kohlhagen of St. Charles danced with her 1-year-old daughter, Kylie, in her arms as musicians from The Well church in Geneva passed.

“All she cares about is if there’s dogs in the parade,” Kohlhagen said. “She gets very excited when she sees the dogs.”

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