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Merrillville gets jump on July Fourth fun

The Merrillville Marching Bperforms July 4th parade Merrillville July 3 2014. | Jim Karczewski/Sun-Times Media

The Merrillville Marching Band performs in the July 4th parade in Merrillville on July 3, 2014. | Jim Karczewski/Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 5, 2014 6:14AM



MERRILLVILLE — The parking lot of Geisen’s Funeral Home on Broadway was packed Thursday with participants lining up for the town’s annual evening Fourth of July parade.

Motorcycles, cars and trucks decorated in flags and patriotic bunting joined fire trucks, police cars and the occasional float as they waited for the parade to begin.

For Alyssa Neito, 21, of Merrillville and her cousin Justice Wheeler, 15, of Gary the town’s parade was the first of two they were going to walk in for Neito’s dad’s business, Tint Man Dan in Merrillville. The business was planning to participate in the Crown Point parade Friday as well.

Tint Man Dan has been in the parade for the past six years, Neito said, adding they enjoy participating because it is good for the community.

“There are a lot of good people in Merrillville,” she said, adding it also is a good opportunity to advertise the business. They were planning on passing out mini Frisbees, candy and fliers with coupons as they walked along the parade route next to the business’s truck.

This is the second time Wheeler was in the parade instead of watching it.

“I think being in the parade is more exciting,” she said. Instead of waiting on the roadside for the parade to pass by, Wheeler said, she is interacting more with the people passing out the goodies.

“It’s more about giving than having to receive,” Neito agreed.

Aaron McKinley, founder of McKinley Boys Drum Line, understands giving back to the community. He started the drum line eight years ago to help at-risk youth. Members were practicing in place in the parking lot as they waited for the parade to begin.

This is the first in a series of parades that give the members an opportunity to display their skills. McKinleys will march Friday in the Gary Fourth of July Parade and also are slated to march in Chicago’s Bud Billiken Day Parade.

“We’ve been practicing all week,” he said.

McKinley said the 20 boys and one girl in the group practice year-round on their drumming and choreography. They will work their way through more than 10 routines and 14 different cadences on their march. The group is three weeks into a summerlong drum line day camp that runs through Aug. 17. The parades are an opportunity to show off their skills.

“We do this for the community, so the community can see what we’re doing,” he said.

Tyjaun King, 16, of Gary said it was the first parade he saw as a youngster that initially got him interested in the drums. He has been a member of the group for seven years and has at least 13 parades under his belt. King said he enjoys marching the parade and seeing how people react.

“I feel challenged. It’s like they want to try and test us,” he said.

K.A.V.E.T. Grooms, 16, the lone girl in the group, has been a member now for two years. She joined after watching her brothers participate.

“I decided to go full out and do something I never tried before,” she said.



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