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updated: 5/8/2019 6:07 PM

Arlington Heights touts ‘Rockwell’ parade experience in video

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  • Video: Arlington Heights Memorial Day

Editor's note: This story has been changed to include the names of Bill Kruser and Jim Thomson, who helped produce the video.

In anticipation of Arlington Heights' centennial Memorial Day parade and ceremony, organizers have released a video recounting what's been described as the town's annual "Norman Rockwell" experience.

The 10-minute video, put together using archival photos and videos, is now airing on the village's cable access channels -- 6 on WideOpenWest, 17 on Comcast and 99 on AT&T U-verse. It also is available online on the village's YouTube channel.

The presentation tracks the history of Arlington Heights' parade since its inaugural on Sept. 6, 1919, when residents welcomed home soldiers, sailors and nurses who served in World War I. The event eventually moved to Memorial Day and became an annual remembrance of the town's fallen heroes.

Those 58 Arlington Heights residents who died in military service -- from the Civil War to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq -- are given special prominence in the video, as they are annually at the after-parade ceremony at Memorial Park.

The video's old black-and-white photos, as well as more-recent images, document the history of what's become one of the largest Memorial Day gatherings in the suburbs: veterans on floats wearing the hats and uniforms of their service branches, citizens and Scout troops carrying American flags, high school bands marching to the beat of their music, and residents lining the parkways holding "Arlington Remembers" signs.

"It's like a Norman Rockwell picture," Brig. Gen. Gracus Dunn said during the 2014 ceremony, which is featured in the video. "You start at the local fire station. Then you march around -- you pass the bank, you pass downtown, and you cross the railroad track where the train station is. You see how Arlington Heights has grown. And then you come into the neighborhoods and you see the families that are out there -- the moms, the dads, the grandmothers and the relatives with the kids on blankets on their lawns."

"Where else in America do you see that with this type of crowd?" Dunn said.

The video is just one way the village's Veterans Memorial Committee is marking the centennial of Memorial Day in Arlington Heights. The committee is also distributing 5,000 commemorative coins for fallen hero families, veterans, active military and supporters. And on the day of the parade and ceremony May 27, an Illinois National Guard helicopter will land in Recreation Park and be available for tours.

Deborah Nelson, a member of the committee and American Legion Auxiliary, led the video research project, finding the stories and images of past parades and ceremonies.

That included a search through decades of negatives and handwritten journals logging each photo assignment at the Daily Herald Media Group, where Nelson is also an employee. Helping her was Bill Kruser of Images by David Kay, Ltd. and the Arlington Heights Camera Club.

The video was scripted by Jim Thomson, board president of the Arlington Heights Historical Society, produced at a studio in the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, and distributed by Kevin Corcoran of Arlington Heights-based Lorelle Communications.

"The collaboration of everyone involved was extraordinary," Nelson said. "Uncovering and documenting 100 years of history was powerful and at the forefront of it all was our purpose of remembering and honoring our fallen heroes. We hope the families of our fallen heroes can take pride in the outcome."