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East Aurora on parade once more

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

AURORA — East Aurora junior Kevin Cortez donned his football jersey ­— number 62 — for a special occasion Wednesday.

East Aurora High School hosted its homecoming parade through the neighborhood around the school Wednesday afternoon, with chants, floats, mascots and costumes. The parade was held for the second year in a row, after a 15-year hiatus.

“It feels great to be marching,” Cortez said. “People are starting to show pride for a school that didn’t have any before.”

School District spokesman Clayton Muhammad said the district isn’t sure why the parade disappeared in the first place.

“We’re working back up to having full-size floats and a bigger turnout,” said Muhammad.

Muhammad said he was pleased with the additional community participation in the parade this year, including marchers state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, Urban League Executive Director Theodia Gillespie and most of the Board of Education.

East Aurora named John Roesch as grand marshal of the parade. Roesch has served as the vice president of the East Aurora Alumni Association, and for the last five years has led the efforts of establishing the association’s Distinguished Alumni Awards, which has honored 25 former Tomcats.

Roesch is the first grand marshal named since the parade has been re-established, said Muhammad.

“Mr. Roesch personifies Tomcat Pride. He has been instrumental in keeping Tomcat traditions alive and he is a great example to our students,” said Superintendent Jerome Roberts.

Roesch, a 1952 East High grad, said he was honored to be leading the parade.

“I’m really surprised and quite frankly I didn’t even know the school had a homecoming parade again,” he said. “But it turned out great, and I was tickled to death to be a part of it.”

Roesch kicked off the parade, followed by the East Aurora band and School Board float. Other student groups marching included the East Aurora Drama Club, student Bible Club, East Aurora Gay Straight Alliance, Link Crew, athletic clubs, Tomcat NJROTC and others.

Four-year-old Ariel Rojo was enjoying the parade from the corner of Fourth and Smith streets when she approached the Tomcat mascot. But when the mascot came in her direction, the tot quickly retreated.

Donald Montgomery and his sister, Carrie, who graduated from East Aurora in 1987 and 1982, respectively, and live on the East Side, watched the celebration from lawn chairs.

Donald Montgomery said the parade’s return was welcome.

“I think the school lost pride when the parade went away. It has begun to regain that pride, but it will take a while,” he said.

East Aurora will play Streamwood in the homecoming game Friday night.

When asked if the Tomcats will win the game, Cortez was sure of his answer.

“Yes!” he said with enthusiasm.

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