A couple of months back we reported that the park district had chosen to cancel the widely popular 4th of July fireworks show for this coming summer. And last week the Chamber of Commerce announced it was putting Summer Fest on hiatus for at least this summer.
While both the parks and chamber have sugarcoated their reasons a bit, in both cases the underlying cause of the cancellations is fear of violence caused by young thugs who have begun to congregate at such events. We get the handwringing we’ve heard in town and read on our comment boards about never giving up and taking back our town. In some sort of primal way we understand that emotion.
Knowing how much the parks love their fireworks show and how long committed the Chamber has been to Summer Fest, we know how difficult their choices have been to make. But so long as event organizers, ably advised by police and village officials, have any sincere concern over public safety then the choice is clear. Events need to be pulled back and rethought.
Both the park district and the Chamber have said they are taking off one year to evaluate options. That is a good middle course. We anticipate that both events will come back, likely with alterations. There are questions that need study. Are there options to create a paid admission? Should Summer Fest hours be more limited? How much is the village currently spending in policing these events? How does the city of Chicago keep their summer street festivals safe?
A final point. There is a tendency to assert that the knuckleheads causing the concern are “all outsiders.” That’s not true and it is not enormously useful. There are local youth contributing to the unease, too. So any theory about locking down borders is just unhelpful. Let’s face the issues, gather information, ask for help and plan for 2014.