Are You Staying North on the Fourth?

By Tatum Bartlett | Thursday, July 1, 2010

Photo by Flickr user indiechick7. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Our Northcenter block started the Fourth of July festivities a little early this year. Late Tuesday evening a loud ?BOOM? pulsated through closed windows, bringing forth throngs of sleepy-eyed neighbors to their front lawns. Six patrol cars and a bomb squad unit later, it appeared as though the culprit was an M-80 (or two) thrown into an alley garbage can. I overheard one neighbor say, ?Maybe this is what the city meant by keeping the works local.?

This year will indeed mark the end to a three-decade-plus run of the city?s July 3rd Grant Park fireworks spectacular. Instead, the city is ushering in a trimmed-down three-show version of the event spread across Chicago?s 26 miles of lakefront. The three smaller displays will be a ?coordinated show? that includes a centralized location (Navy Pier and surrounding area), as well as a South lakefront location (63rd Street Beach to Promontory Point), and, as previously reported, a North lakefront location (from Foster to Montrose). The hope is that the new format will bring the fireworks closer to home for people who live on the North Side and South Side of the city, thus eliminating colossal crowds and public safety concerns, as well as saving ?hundreds of thousands of dollars.?

At a City Hall news conference, Megan McDonald, director of the Mayor?s Office of Special Events said, ?I think the idea is that we?re encouraging people to go back to their communities, and to stretch those fireworks shows throughout the lakefront, so we can manage more effectively a busy holiday weekend citywide.? She added, ?We recognize that there are many who enjoy the Independence Day holiday in their own communities with friends and family, so we decided this year to bring the fireworks to them.?

Unsurprisingly, public reaction to the change has been mixed. Some claim the new fireworks program is better and some say it’s worse. Is it merely the city?s response to a bad economy? Or an attempt to keep neighborhoods’ celebrations separate? Questions and comments have been flippantly tossed about: “Why not just borrow from the city?s parking meter fund?” or “With the highest taxes in the country, how is it possible that we cannot afford fireworks?”

The sappy side of me feels that we shouldn’t overlook the idea of community. After all, the fireworks display is a city event for city residents, and maybe this less daunting setup will actually entice more Chicagoans to attend. Ours is a city of neighborhoods, and the three-show display will allow neighbors to come together in a “backyard” that’s bigger than their own. (To me, that’s better than squeezing onto a tiny plot of grass amid two million strangers!)

For those looking to start the party close to home a day early, don?t miss the annual children?s bicycle parade sponsored by the Ravenswood Manor Improvement Association. For those tots already polishing their tricycles, ?gathering and lining up? begins at 10 a.m. on July 3 in Buffalo Park (at Manor, Sunnyside, and California). The parade will begin at 10:30 a.m. and head north on Manor Avenue, ending at Merle?s Coffee Shoppe. All are invited to watch the parade, and for those who wish to participate, there’s one prerequisite: no training wheels allowed! (OK, jokes aside?the more streamers and glitter donned, the better!)

Wherever you should spend the holiday, Center Square Journal wishes you a happy Fourth of July!

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