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Fourth of July in the US Midwest - 2002-07-04

Millions of Americans mark the Fourth of July by attending major celebrations in Washington, New York and other major cities, but for many more, Independence Day is a small-town-America celebration.

The sign that welcomes you to Yorkville, Illinois says 6,500 people live here, and on the Fourth of July, it seems everyone in town is either in the annual parade or watching it.

Marcie Rogers was watching and commented: "I think people are just full of patriotism in this town. They always are," she said. "It has been this way every year since we've lived here."

She and her husband Joe have been coming to Yorkville's Independence Day parade since they moved here nearly 40 years ago. Joe says there is a feeling of increased patriotism that makes this Fourth of July seem more special. "Our freedom is probably worth more than anything else we have in this world," he said. "We all have it and it is the best thing we have."

Yorkville is the hometown of the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert. Mr. Hastert was in the parade, driving a vintage fire truck.

War veteran Jeff Cox carried a ceremonial rifle alongside the American flag at the head of the parade. He marches every year and says a lot of thoughts go through his head along the route. "The honor of the guys who fell," he said. "All the wars. Proudness to be an American."

Yorkville is just one of thousands of small towns marking Independence Day with parades, picnics, concerts or festivals. Like many other communities, there will be fireworks at dusk. Dave Withrow does not live in Yorkville anymore, but returns here every Fourth of July for the parade.

"It is something I have celebrated all my life. It is something we should celebrate," he said. "It reminds us why the Constitution was written and why we have the freedom to say and do the things that we do."

Those who wanted a much larger Independence Day celebration were likely among the million people who watched Chicago's fireworks Wednesday night along the shore of Lake Michigan. And for those who can't bear to see the Fourth of July end, the suburb of Orland Park has an event called, "2002 Minutes of Independence." It is 33 hours and 22 minutes of music, games, movies and, Thursday night, fireworks.