BELLEVILLE, Ill. – A decades-long tradition in Belleville continued Friday night. The Ainad Shriners parade included more than 100 groups traveling through the streets of downtown Belleville.

“It kind of marks the beginning of summer,” Ed Lemay, Belleville resident, said.

Belleville native Amy Schmidt said, “It’s about family and fun and it’s a tradition.”

Police shared on social media that the department was prepared to use drones Friday to monitor crowds and help with safety.  

A festival on Saturday will include food trucks, car shows and live entertainment. The weekend highlights the work of Shriners and is also a fundraiser.

“I’m sure you passed by many many times our hospital in St. Louis,” Ainad Shriners Potentate Mike Koeneman said.

Family pleads for help to find missing De Soto mom Emily Strite

He said Shriners are all about philanthropy. 

“We take care of children with scoliosis, with orthopedic injuries, cleft palates, club feet, all at no cost to the parent or child. And you know, we’re quite proud of that,” he said.

The excitement for the weekend started early. Empty chairs placed by the parade marked their spots in downtown Belleville more than 24 hours before the parade started.

“I’ve seen people putting chairs out as of Thursday morning, just something people have done for a very long time in Belleville,” visitor Kevin Vosse said. 

He was smiling over his daughter’s participation in a float celebrating Althoff Catholic High School’s state championship in soccer.  

Koeneman said the parade is an opportunity for Shriners to display their pride and allow the community to see who they are.

“It’s Shriners having fun helping kids,” he said. “In a nutshell, that’s what we do.”

For more information, click here.