AURORA — Although 90-degree and muggy weather prevailed for about the fifth day in a row — and some rain fell in late afternoon / early evening — the conditions did not deter residents and their out-of-town relatives and friends from enjoying the city’s July 4 festivities.

“Everything went smoothly, especially given the extreme heat index throughout the day,” said Parks-Recreation Director Laura Holman. “Many braved the heat to participate in the fun runs,” which kicked off the day’s activities.

“We had an exceptionally large number of parade entries this year,” she added. “It was wonderful to see the crowd honor our veterans as they led the parade, and that so many of our businesses, organizations and community groups celebrated together.”

The big parade, which stretched from the Barrington Town Center parking lots to the main fire station on West Pioneer Trail, was led by grand marshal, the Rev. Bill Schnell, retired senior pastor of the Church in Aurora.

Schnell gave up his usual place marching with other church members and carrying a huge American flag to ride in one of the lead vehicles in the parade. He retired earlier this year after serving 22 years as senior pastor.

“Rev. Schnell enjoyed the day in a well-deserved tribute to his many contributions to our community,” said Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin.

Holman said units representing more than 60 groups participated in the parade, and that was about 10 to 12 more than last year.

The Aurora High band received the best entry trophy for school groups in the parade. Other trophies went to: Aurora Manor, business; Boy Scout Troops 3265 and 3269, non-profit; Walden, most patriotic; Four Seasons, community / neighborhood group.

Honorable mentions went to: Aurora Co-Op Preschool, school; Tinlin Team Platinum Real Estate, business; Church in Aurora, most patriotic; and Rotary Club, community / neighborhood group.

After the late morning / early afternoon parade finished up, the festive holiday crowd had the opportunity to enjoy games, organizational booths and food stands at Kiwanis-Moore Playground beside the main fire station for a few hours.

“I received a lot of comments about how much people appreciated that the Church in Aurora opened its doors to the public throughout the day,” said Holman. “The respite from the heat was very welcome.

“Families enjoyed the festival, including food trucks, giveaways by local businesses and groups, bounce houses manned by Aurora’s Rotary and Interact clubs, putt-putt golf offered by our honored Aurora veterans of the American Legion, Jungle Terry’s animal show and Flower the clown’s balloon creations.”

One new feature this year was the band Post Road performing for a couple of hours prior to the fireworks at dusk, with food trucks providing refreshments during the music.

“I believe it was the first time a full band played prior to the fireworks,” said Holman. “We’ve had some live performers and a disc jockey before, but never a full band. Post Road was a good fit.

“After a shower came through, an enthusiastic crowd returned to enjoy concessions, the live music and fireworks,” added Holman. “Many people worked very hard in preparation for the day, and it showed. Aurora should be proud.”

The Aurora Firemen’s Association awarded three cash prizes in its annual July 4 raffle. The top prize winner is from Reminderville and the second and third place winners are from Aurora. Assistant Fire Chief John Schmader said it is the association’s policy not to release prize winners’ names.

“Despite the heat, Aurora’s festivities were well attended and enjoyed by all,” said Benjamin. “The parade was larger than usual, attracting a number of out-of-town participants, with the Aurora High band setting the patriotic atmosphere with musical favorites.

“I walked in the parade and can attest to the endurance required in the extreme heat, and commend our committed veterans for carrying the flags at the head of the parade.

“The food and activities at the festival and live music by Post Road provided fun and entertainment for all, and many told me that the fireworks display was the best ever. I want to thank Laura Holman and her staff for putting on such a wonderful day-long event.”

Concluded the mayor, “I also want to thank our police and fire forces for keeping people safe in the crowd, and for handling traffic so efficiently. It was indeed a great day in Aurora.”

Reporter Ken Lahmers can be reached at 330-541-9400 Ext. 4189 or klahmers@recordpub.com