It just wouldn't be right for Belleville to celebrate its 200th birthday without a parade. And it looks like the 'Beautiful City" will have a doozy for you Friday evening.
"Belleville is the paradingest city in Illinois -- and maybe the country. And that's a beautiful thing," said Mike Koeneman, an Ainad Shriner and one of the organizers of the Bicentennial Float Parade.
The parade will step off at 7 p.m. Friday at 17th and West Main Street and will head eastward around Veterans Memorial Fountain, down East Main to Forest Avenue.
"We have 150 units lined up," Koeneman said. "Besides lots of floats, we'll have marching bands from Belleville East and Belleville West, and other groups from the high schools."
He also listed baton twirlers, dance groups, the Bud Light Brigade, local officeholders, 16 or more units from the Ainad Shrine, antique cars, clowns and Belleville's mascot, Otto.
"The Belleville Labor & Industry museum will have the Harrison Steam Engine, Jumbo (made in Belleville in 1890), in the parade, a lot of Belleville history."
And about those floats. Here's a peek at a couple of them.
Belleville Sister Cities is building a float "that resembles a German biergarten," said Ro Fritz, past president of the organization. "It recognizes Belleville's German heritage and the connection between Belleville and Paderborn," Germany.
The float has a white latticework fence and banners in colors of the German flag.
Meanwhile, Jack Tribout has been working on two floats. One is a replica of Tribout's Canival Supplies old store at 17th and West Main Street -- complete with the carnival mural that was painted on a side wall.
"It took me about a week to paint that mural, two weeks to build the float." Tribout said. "I projected the figures onto the float. The tricky part was flopping it so I could paint it on the other side and have it look right, just like people remember it."
The float will represent the family business from 1946 to 2006. Jack is building a second float that shows the current store at 517 S. Illinois St..
"My grandparents, Edwin and Erna, founded the business in 1946," Jack said, "so we're a big part of Belleville history."
The floats will have four genereations of Tribouts aboard for the parade. Erna will be riding the old store float. "She'll be throwing beads," said Dennis Tribout, who now runs the business. "Tribout's is all about beads."
Koeneman is pleased so many businesses and organizations are excited about being in the parade.
"We've had a great response. It's a good way for people who live here to say 'thank you' to Belleville."
Koeneman and a committee of eight to 10 people have been working on parade logistics since early January.
"And there will be about 40 of us (volunteers) on the street Friday lining up the parade.
"It's a cooperative effort of the Belleville Optimists and the Ainad Shriners and others who have been involved in putting on the Santa Parade, the Shrine Circus Parade, St. Patrick's and Labor Day parades.
"We just had a meeting this morning of the safety committee with Belleville Police and the Fire Department and St. Clair County. A lot of people are working on this."
Koeneman especially wanted to point out the work of Jim Kurtz, who is in charge of the parade layout ("That's one headache I don't need," Koeneman said.), and Steve Kraus, chairman of Ainad parades.
Koeneman, who grew up in Belleville but now lives in Swansea, had personal reasons for getting involved in Belleville's Bicentennial Parade.
"I remember watching my mom and dad riding in Belleville's 175th Anniversary Parade. My dad (Roy) was a 6th Ward alderman. It was his birthday and we had the birthday celebration right there on the square. Great memories. ...
"Belleville is just a great place to live and that's what we want the parade to show."
At a glance
What: Belleville's Bicentennial Float Parade
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Route: 17th and West Main Street, around Veterans Memorial Fountain and down East Main to Forest Avenue.
Bicentennial 5K Run: Begins at 6 p.m. at Union United Methodist Church, 721 East Main St. The run is down Main Street to 17th and back to the church. Early parade spectators can cheer for the runners.