The Park District of Forest Park is bringing back its Independence Day fireworks display for the first time since the tradition’s cancellation in 2012, when village officials said the annual celebration had become a victim of its own success; the crowds were too much to handle and the event’s local roots had given way to more and more attendees coming from across Cook County. As reported by the Review at the time, there were traffic and crowd-control concerns.
After the 2012 show, police reported problems with teenagers throwing bricks at residents and cars on Thomas Avenue and arrested one man for carrying a pair of brass knuckles. State police also moved folks parked along the shoulders of I-290 watching the show. Nearby parking lots off Desplaines Avenue were filled with cars.
“Nobody’s more disappointed than the board,” Park District Director Larry Piekarz said at the time. “There are lifelong residents of Forest Park who have been going to the fireworks for 30 years.”
This time around, according to Rachell Entler, a village council commissioner and the park district’s recreation supervisor, the park district has scaled back its marketing campaign in an effort keep the event low-key.
“We’ve done almost nothing on social media,” Entler said. “That spreads like wildfire.”
This year’s event will be limited to the afternoon and evening, instead of an all-day event. Piekarz has also met several times with the police chief and fire chief to plan logistics and coordinate security.
“We’re confident we can handle it,” Police Chief Thomas Aftanas said, adding his department will station additional police along Desplaines Avenue between Harrison and I-290 to help traffic flow.
The park district budgeted about $20,000 for the event, with the majority going to the fireworks display, Entler said.
Forest Park National Bank is the event’s main sponsor and gave a “very generous” donation to the fireworks, Entler said. The park district also received about $6,000 from residents after a fundraising campaign. In February, the village council approved a request from Piekarz to include a donations appeal along with the vehicle sticker renewal mailing.
Along with the evening fireworks, two musical acts are scheduled. The first group, Circle of Fifths, kicks off at 4 p.m., followed by The Redmonds at 6:30 p.m.