DU QUOIN — The bands played and danced. Real dancers marched and danced. And a big bright mustard-yellow ducky followed behind the convertible carrying the Ducky Derby ambassador.
All of them were there to greet those who lined U.S. 51 for the annual Twilight Parade.
The parade of firetrucks, mini-cars driven by Shriners, and horses and ponies also heralded in the parade, which kicks off the opening of the annual Du Quoin State Fair.
And there were politicians — and would-be politicians.
As they have year after year, several politicians, took advantage of the parade and venue to celebrate the best of the state and to get their faces and names before the public.
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner was in the front of the parade, walking with some staff and supporters, following behind a group that carried a large American flag.
Others from the state government were also there, including Treasurer Mike Frerichs and State Reps. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro and Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) and U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth.
Several gubernatorial contenders were also there — Daniel Biss, J.B. Pritzker and Chris Kennedy.
Near the end of the parade, Kennedy, at least, was far behind his parade entourage, running with his aides, at points to catch up with his group, but then alternately stopping to introduce himself and shake hands.
At least a dozen people who met him said sure, they knew who he was — Kennedy, Chris Kennedy. None of them knew him as connected to "that" Kennedy family — the eighth of 11 children of former U.S. Sen. Robert "Bobby" Kennedy and nephew of U.S. President John F. Kennedy.
"Well, I'll be darned," said Daryl Dryden, who seconds earlier had shaken Kennedy's hand and then heard that "this" Kennedy was related to the former U.S. President. "He looks like somebody that I knew."
One woman, who described herself as a longtime Du Quoin educator, wondered how someone from the Massachusetts Kennedy clan got to Illinois.
Kennedy has actually called Illinois home since 1986, when he moved here to work for Archer Daniels Midland.
He said he's running to represent the average Illinoisan who seems forgotten in politics and who is leaving the state because they are being economically forced out. He said he's also interested in a school funding mechanism that relies less on property taxes, as he said state government is run by those who make a living as property-tax appeal lawyers.
"We grew up with Sen. Ted Kennedy: He was like a second father to us. He never thought compromise was surrender,” Kennedy said. “He would work with people across the aisle."
His brief contact with Dryden and his partner was convincing, initially anyway.
Dryden's partner, Buffy Willett, said, "Yay — he got my vote."
Why? Because of his family affiliation?
"He had a firm handshake," she said, "and he looked me dead in the eyes."