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Local News

Community fireworks remain the highlight of the holiday

But it takes a lot of money and effort to make it happen

There is nothing quite like fireworks on the Fourth of July – or on the Third or Fifth of July, for that matter.

“It’s patriotic and the kids like it,” said Frank Guitron of Joliet, who was with his family at the Plainfield Patriotic Picnic and Fireworks on Friday evening.

Guitron, like many local residents, was taking advantage of the long holiday weekend and the 80-degree summer weather. He and his family were headed for Michigan City Beach in Indiana on Saturday, and perhaps the Joliet fireworks show that night.

“If we get back early enough, maybe we’ll stop by and see those,” Guitron said.

And, if they wanted to, they could head to Morris on Sunday for another fireworks show at the Grundy County Fair.

Outside Joliet Memorial Stadium on Saturday, fireworks watchers filled parking lots along Jefferson Street three hours before the show started.

Inside the stadium, Mary Ann Sternisha of Crest Hill was with family and friends having a Fourth of July picnic. Kids played volleyball on the stadium turf. Chips, cookies and other snacks were laid out on a picnic table set up for the occasion.

Sternisha said they typically come early.

“It’s the atmosphere – being in the stadium with my family and the music,” she said. “And then, it’s a great show.”

The gatherings before the fireworks can be as much of a draw as the pyrotechnics.

“We get to see people we don’t see on a daily basis, and hang out with people we do see on a daily basis,” said Anne O’Leary of Plainfield, sitting in a lawn chair outside Plainfield Central High School about three hours before the Friday fireworks would start.

‘$17,000 gone in 20 minutes’

In Plainfield, the Patriotic Picnic and Fireworks are funded and organized by the Plainfield Township Park District. The event is in its sixth year, but should not be taken for granted, said Cheryl Crisman, director of recreation for the park district and one of the coordinators of the event.

“It’s $17,000 gone in 20 minutes,” said Crisman, calculating the cost of the fireworks and duration of the display. “It’s one of those things that we hope we can continue to do.”

The village of Plainfield and Plainfield township were co-sponsors this year, helping support the event. But the park district also looks for business sponsors to help cover costs.

In Joliet, a committee of business and civic leaders raise money for the fireworks and coordinates the show.

“Thank God for the businesses in the community that support this,” said Mary Jaworski, commenting on the donations that make the show possible.

The Joliet fireworks also are supported by community contributions, many of which are generated during a radio fundraiser broadcast on WJOL-AM and staged at D’Arcy Motors.

Car dealer Terry D’Arcy, also on the fireworks committee, led an effort in 2009 to prevent the Joliet fireworks from being a casualty of the recession. The City of Joliet, facing budget troubles, did not make the $10,000 contribution it had in the past, and the fireworks were called off. D’Arcy, unwilling to let a decades-long tradition die, led a late fundraising effort that allowed the show to go on.

It’s worth the effort, Jaworski said.

The sight of thousands of people at Memorial Stadium, spread out along the fairways of the neighboring Inwood Golf Course, and lining the sidewalks and parking lots Jefferson Street to see the fireworks can be very rewarding.

“... It’s all for their enjoyment,” Jaworski said. “When you go out that night and you see the thousands of people who come out, you think, it’s all because of the support we get.”

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