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WOOGMS Parade continues a Memorial Day tradition in Chicago's East Lakeview neighborhood

Annual Woogms Parade kicks off in Lakeview
Annual Woogms Parade kicks off in Lakeview 03:42

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The WOOGMS Parade in Chicago's East Lakeview neighborhood is famous for being an event where nobody watches, and everybody marches.

The annual Wellington-Oakdale Old Glory Marching Society Memorial Day Parade stepped off Monday morning at Pine Grove and Wellington avenues.

The event invites residents from across Chicago to grab a scooter, a stroller, or whatever they have on hand to take part in the do-it-yourself parade. It has been that way ever since the late Oakdale Avenue resident Al Weisman founded the marching society in 1963.

DNAinfo reported in 2013 that it started Oakdale Avenue resident Al Weisman's neighbor gave him a five-foot flagpole – and he decided to hold a march with the flagpole accompanied by local kids.

On that occasion, fewer than 10 children attended – with one girl strumming the Israeli national anthem "Hatikva" on a violin, DNAinfo reported.

Weisman, a World War II veteran and longtime PR executive, died in 1974. As reported by the Chicago Tribune 20 years after his death, Weisman was a notable man in Chicago for many positions and achievements – including working for many years as a legman for iconic Chicago advertising executive Fairfax Cone, teaching urban politics and journalism at Columbia College Chicago, helping launch WTTW-Channel 11, and dedicating the Picasso sculpture in what is now called Daley Plaza. He was working as a public relations executive with the University of Chicago when he died.

Weisman's name is invoked to this day when WOOGMS Board and Parade Organizing Committee members Jennifer Bernardi and Liz Cohen – both of whom spoke with CBS 2 on Monday – get into the history of the parade.

Chicago's WOOGMS Parade steps off for Memorial Day 04:19

Weisman's son, Tony Weisman, took over the parade after his death. After the younger Weisman moved away, a collective group of neighbors took over, Bernardi said.

"It really reminds me of the small town where I grew up, going to parades," said Bernardi. "Kids will decorate their bikes. Some people wear, you know, hats – crazy hats. We have these great WOOGMS Day Old Glory T-shirts, so a lot of people love having those, and it's just a really great get-together with people."

The Jesse White Tumblers and Drum Corps – led by former Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White –participated in the parade this year as always. U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Illinois), Illinois state Sen. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), and Ald. Bennett Lawson (44th) are also regular attendees.

"It's such a unique way to do a parade, and I think it's become so important for everybody to be able to see their neighbors, see the support around them, remember why we're all here, and just have the continuity," said Cohen, "and we've got generations now that have been coming."

Cohen said her own daughter grew up participating in the parade.

"We came before our daughter was born, and after, when she was in a stroller – I remember walking her through the parade in the stroller – and she's now almost 16," Cohen said, "and just seeing all these different kids who were with us in the beginning – now, some of them are actually working with us on planning the parade."

People who used to live in the area often come back to take part in the parade, Cohen said.

WOOGMS also holds a parade every Labor Day.

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