Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Volunteer leadership ensures Evanston’s Fourth of July celebration shines bright

William Karr
Children from Evanston Aquatic Camp ride in a parade float.

Amid parents marking their sidewalk spots, children’s laughter and the occasional barking dog, one man and his team of volunteers stood out among the relaxed crowd at Evanston’s Fourth of July parade Thursday. 

Tracy Alden, serves as the president of the Fourth of July Association, a team of dedicated volunteers who work year-round to orchestrate the city’s all-day Independence Day celebration. Growing up in Evanston, Alden has attended the Fourth of July festivities each year. 

He began volunteering with the association in 1995 and assumed a leadership role in 2007 when he was asked to join the board of trustees. Nine years ago, he became president of the association, assuming his central role in planning the event. 

Mary Ellen Lydon, who has been volunteering with the organization since she moved to Evanston from Chicago 50 years ago, commended Alden’s leadership. 

“He has been doing this for years,” Lyndon said. “He’s got it down to a science, so things run smoothly under him. They’re going to regret it when Tracy hangs up his hat.”

Every Fourth of July since 2015, Alden has donned his neon yellow “Parade Official” cap and name tag, overseeing the day’s activities from morning games through the afternoon parade to the evening fireworks. 

Amid the noise and energy of the crowd, he tirelessly coordinates with other volunteers who play key roles in the event’s success.

“Some people naturally have a desire to serve in various capacities,” Alden said. “I am an outgoing, gregarious guy, so I am comfortable in my role. Other people are not, but there is a role for everybody, and that is the important thing.”

Tracy’s son, Ben Alden, who grew up in Evanston, praised his father’s organizational prowess and ability to rally volunteers, calling the parade “a success ever since he’s been doing it.”

The beloved Fourth of July parade has been a staple for a century, cherished by onlookers. Tracy said he hopes to recruit younger volunteers to sustain the tradition.

“We are looking for young, new people to get involved,” Tracy Alden said. “A lot of us are aging out, and we want to make sure it keeps going.”

For Tracy, the celebration signifies a time to unite and celebrate the national holiday together. 

“Memories are going to come from this for both the parents and the kids,” he said. “It’s a good way to celebrate our nation’s independence.”


Email: [email protected]

Stella Seitz is a student in the Medill-Northwestern Journalism Institute this summer. 

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