Updated: August 8, 2013 7:11AM
SANDWICH — Gary Hessenberger can practically fall out of bed and be at the Freedom Days parade.
He lives just a half-block from the parade’s ground zero — Lisbon and Ash streets — where it both begins and ends. The parade starts at the Sandwich Fairgrounds, goes down Lisbon until it hits Ash, turns right, makes a square around town, and ends up coming back down Lisbon to Ash again.
“If they time it right, you see the beginning of the parade come back just as the ending units are starting,” Hessenberger said.
Not that being close to the parade has always worked in his favor. When Hessenberger was still working the third shift at the Aurora Caterpillar Plant, he would sometimes get home just in time to find the numerous police and fire units in the parade parked on his block.
“I couldn’t get into my own street,” he said, laughing.
Now retired, Hessenberger doesn’t have to worry about that. He can be a complete spectator to the parade he has seen almost every year since it was started in the early 1980s.
On Saturday, he was waiting to see the float for the Sandwich Moose lodge go by. Hessenberger is the administrator for the lodge. The float is the first the lodge has done in a while, he said.
While Hessenberger has seen about 30 years worth of Freedom Days parades, 8-year-old Alan Hersh was at his first. Hersh, attending the parade with his parents from Somonauk, made an abrupt stop when he came face to face with the familiar Star Wars villain, Darth Vadar.
Mr. Vadar, it seems, was hustling to get to his place in the parade just as it was about to begin. But he attracted more attention walking quickly through the crowd.
“He’s scary,” Hersh said. “Well, not too scary.”
For his part, Mr. Vadar breathed heavily and moved on.
As the parade started, Shary Clark was watching kids pick up candy thrown from around the floats, musing that this was perhaps her seventh Freedom Days parade. But she admitted she was not there to watch the entire parade.
“I’m in it,” she said. “I’m just waiting for our (First Baptist Church) float to come by.”