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Geneva man marks 50 years of watching Swedish Days Parade

‘I look forward to the parade all year’

GENEVA – When the 70th annual Geneva Swedish Days Parade steps off at 1 p.m. June 23, Pete Ingold will be in the same spot on Third Street where he’s watched the parade for the past 25 years.

All told, Ingold, 54, said he’s watched the parade every year for 50 years, starting when his family moved to Geneva in 1967 from Park Forest.

This year will be a little special as he will be watching the parade with his 89-year-old mother, Joanne, his 26-year-old daughter, Lindsey Wojcik, and his 3-month-old grandson, Chase.

“I look forward to the parade all year,” Ingold said. “I’ve always just liked it as a kid. Everyone looked forward to it. ... I’ve always been there for the parade.”

His spot on Third Street in front of the historic courthouse started when his mother worked at the courthouse’s information booth. This was back when the carnival was on Fourth Street by the Geneva Theater, Ingold said.

“She had a reserved parking spot at the courthouse. We would go there the night before, at midnight, and set up our spot,” Ingold said. “Now, we walk down at 10 p.m. when the band finishes and put down a tarp and a blanket.”

The youngest of seven – four boys and three girls – Ingold remembers riding his bike with siblings and friends to Geneva’s downtown, staying out late and visiting the shops that were open late for Moonlight Madness.

“Things were different then,” Ingold said, recalling a more innocent time. “Parents didn’t worry about creepy people.”

Ingold has several favorites in the parade – the drum and bugle corps, the marching bands, the South Shore Drill Team, the Shriners on their little mechanized magic carpets and the horses.

“There used to be a competition on Saturday at the high school where 30 to 40 marching bands would come from all over the county for a competition,” Ingold said. “It was a huge, all-day event.”

Two things are brought up by family and friends every year during the parade, he said.

“One is that me and my wife and best friends picked up poop behind the horses about 1976 … the summer after seventh grade,” Ingold said. “St. Peter School needed volunteers to do different things for the parade. So we were riding a little tractor and picking up horse poop.”

The other memory involves Ingold’s antipathy toward clowns.

“They had this hobo clown band one year,” Ingold said. “And they were going by and I’m talking to whoever is with us and one clown sat right next to me and I didn’t know it. I turned to my right and it totally startled me. I didn’t know what to say. I just sat there for a minute and he got up and went back in the parade.”

Ingold said someone took a photo of his clown surprise that day.

While Ingold has never missed a parade, he said his mother has just missed a few when the parade was on a particularly hot day.

“But she always attends the party afterward now at my apartment,” Ingold said. “We have a big cookout and mingle.”

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