Forest Park cancels July 4th fireworks for 2013

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By JEAN LOTUS

Updated Oct. 2, 2012 - 9:30 p.m.

Forest Park's Fourth of July fireworks show is a victim of its own success, said Park Director Larry Piekarz after the park district canceled the longstanding village tradition for 2013.

"We've had the best in the suburbs," said Piekarz. "One of the attractions of our fireworks was how good they were. We don't want to look like we just came from Indiana with a box of fireworks."

In the wake of the decision, Piekarz said he's been hearing from residents.

"I've been getting positive and negative phone calls. There's not one person who's not disappointed," he said.

The park board made the decision at their Sept. 20 meeting, citing the event's growing crowds and costs. Piekarz said the fireworks show costs $13,000 per year.

The board conferred with police and Mayor Anthony Calderone before making the decision.

"People are telling me, 'You made a hard decision, glad to see you do it and be proactive instead of waiting for an incident,'" Piekarz said. "Public safety is our first concern."

He acknowledged that "potential gang activity" was one concern discussed with police and the village. "It was a concern, but not the main concern," he said.

Forest Park police requested the assistance of 40 additional officers through the Northern Illinois Police Alarm System (NIPAS) to help with patrols during the July 4th display. The visiting officers included arrest teams, weapons teams, line officers and K9 teams, according to the July Village Police Report. The Forest Park K9 unit was also deployed. With local officers, around 80 police were on hand to keep tabs on the event.

Piekarz said they didn't know how many people had gathered at The Park, but crowds spilling over into residential blocks south of The Park were an indication that the crowds had grown.

"We had police shagging kids out who got into the second floor of the [derelict] Roos building. Now that scares me."

Police arrested one man carrying illegal brass knuckles and cops picked up several minors who were setting off fireworks and throwing bricks at people and cars in the 1000 block of Thomas Avenue. Also, a Bellwood woman was severely beaten by a boyfriend as a group of people watched the fireworks show nearby in a parking lot on Roosevelt Road.

Meanwhile, embers set fire to a patch of grass between Harlem and Desplaines avenues on the south side of the expressway. The fire was quickly extinguished by Forest Park firefighters.

Piekarz said state police moved people parked on the expressway shoulders to watch the fireworks, and parking lots on Desplaines, Lehmer Street and Roosevelt Road were packed with people. "It's a small park, and it's too small for those crowds."

"Nobody's more disappointed than the board," Piekarz said. "They're lifelong residents of Forest Park and have been going to the fireworks for 30 years."

He said the park staff were working on proposals for other events on July 3, including a possible concert and family-style cookout.

Piekarz said the decision might be reversible, if the board could figure out a way to bring the fireworks back in a more manageable way.

"Maybe we need to reinvent it, maybe in a year's time. Maybe we needed to cancel one year to get our ducks back in a row," he said.

For those who still want to see local fireworks next July 4th, the closest display to Forest Park will be the Oak Park fireworks, held at Oak Park and River Forest High School. North Riverside canceled their fireworks last year.

Reader Comments

11 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Christian Olson from Forest Park IL  

Posted: June 26th, 2014 4:36 PM

Take a look at the last paragraph because I have been going my whole life before 2013 and they are not scheduled for 2014

Mrs. Wentworth from Forest Park  

Posted: July 4th, 2013 4:40 PM

It's very disappointing that the 4th of July Celebration was cancelled, especially since the City of Chicago cancelled it's holiday celebration. I would think that the village would rather the residents and the neighboring town the yearly celebration than hearing about children harming themselves with fireworks. But, I guess we will have to look to the future July 4th celebrations.

Joel Farran from Oak Park  

Posted: July 4th, 2013 4:15 PM

I hate to see the fireworks cancelled and hope they bring them back next year! I could sit on my back porch and watch the whole show without any inconvenience -- no parking problems, no gangs, no sweaty drunks . . . and no trash in the morning. Best of all, not a dime of my taxes went into it! I look forward to the show every year. Please F.P. Board: bring back the fireworks!

lynise Griffin from Chicago  

Posted: July 4th, 2013 12:06 PM

Forest Park 4th of july fireworks was one Great!!!! Reason to look forward to Dusk. I am soooooooooooooooooooo disappointed Because going down town is Horriffic and definitely! not! an option. I've never seen, nor heard one fight or disturbance because the FP police department were ALWAYZ!!!! on point. I do hope that the mayor of fp the board, whomever REconsiders for years to come because watching a firework show on Television sucks!!!!!!!!!!!

ann sanders  

Posted: July 4th, 2013 12:06 PM

I've been going for years and really enjoyed the fireworks in Forest Park. This in the western suburbs. My family and I will really miss it, but understand the safety issues. .

EKD from Maywood  

Posted: July 3rd, 2013 2:11 PM

As disappointing as it is. I understand - safety comes first "Thumbs Up" for your decision. Maybe next time. Suggestion: Only Local and closest communities admittances.

Monica  

Posted: July 3rd, 2013 7:00 AM

It's sad to hear so many people who will miss the fireworks. However, as someone who lives down the street from the park, it's a mess. People from other neighborhoods block my garage, fight with my neighbors and the local police, and trash the park. People race through my alley that is filled with neighborhood kids and dogs. I leave for work at 5 am, and the park is filled with trash. Maybe when people learn basic manners, like pick up your trash, then we can have fireworks. I support FP!

Camiile T. from chicago  

Posted: July 2nd, 2013 2:40 PM

This is extremely disappointing! My family has come to this firework show as well for years and years. This was the best show thus far. This is a 4 of July tradition and its very saddening that it has been cancelled.

Stephanie from Oak Park  

Posted: July 2nd, 2013 6:23 AM

I just now found this article about the cancellation of the fireworks and festivities on the 4th, and I'm extremely disappointed. We've taken part in the Forest Park festivities on the 4th for almost 40 years - from the firefighters with their hose wars, the foam, organized games for adults and kids, bingo, the VFW beer wagon, and much more. Not to mention the BEST fireworks display in the suburbs! It's sad that Forest Park decided to end this long-standing tradition.

Jean Lotus from Forest Park Review Forest Park Review Employee

Posted: June 26th, 2013 8:34 AM

Have no fear, there's tons to do in the area on July 3 and 4. http://www.forestparkreview.com/News/Articles/6-18-2013/Fourth-of-July-festivities-near-Forest-Park-include-family-picnics,-parades-and-music/

Laurie from La Grange Park  

Posted: June 26th, 2013 2:40 AM

Omg...i just checked to see if anything was posted about the fireworks only to find out they are cancelled... :( How disappointing. We have come to this display for a number of years now, and it was fantastic!!! It's a shame they have to take away the ONE day display they share with local residents. Violence and inappropriate behavior will STILL go on, with or without the fireworks.. very disappointed....