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Local News

Bicentennial Park bringing July 3 fireworks, boat festival back to Joliet

Onlookers see the finale to the fireworks display at Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park in 2007. The park plans to bring back July 3 fireworks and a summertime boat festival.
Onlookers see the finale to the fireworks display at Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park in 2007. The park plans to bring back July 3 fireworks and a summertime boat festival.

JOLIET – Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park plans to bring back July 3 fireworks and a summertime boat festival.

The events will mark the return of once-popular events that were stopped when the city cut funding to the park amid recession budget cuts.

The July 3 fireworks offered a riverside setting for a celebration that preceded the city’s July 4 fireworks at Memorial Stadium.

“We definitely have voted on it and approved it,” said Jeff Barnes, a Bicentennial Park board member and secretary. “That’s definitely happening.”

Also definitely scheduled is River Fest, a revival of the old Waterway Daze held at the park that lines the west side of the Des Plaines River across from downtown.

River Fest will be July 23.

“It will be a one-day Saturday event,” said Deanna Opsahl with Bicentennial Park. “It will be a Venetian-type event with lighted boats, live music, food and a fireworks finale.”

The park board also is considering a shortened version of Pumpkinfest, a fall festival that formerly was a weekend-long event. No decision has been made.

Bicentennial Park is reviving events in the wake of last year’s proposal by Joliet Township Supervisor Dan Vera to transfer control of the park to the township. Vera said the township would be able to provide funding to bring back some of the festivals that no longer were being held at the park. But the township and city never came to terms on a transfer of control.

The city owns the park, which has a board that primarily serves as a fundraising arm.

Meanwhile, the Bicentennial Park board also is looking for the city to provide more staffing for the park.

City Manager Jim Hock told the City Council this week that he has been asked by the board to hire a park manager to replace the last one who retired more than a year ago. The park board also is asking the city to hire someone who would serve as a fundraiser for the park in addition to paying for summertime staff.

Hock, however, said he plans to hire a private contractor to oversee the park primarily in the spring, summer and fall, when it is most active.

He also said he plans to leave park summer staffing as the financial responsibility of the park board.

Barnes said the city had funded summertime staffing prior to the recession, and the park took it over as a temporary measure to help out the city during its budget crunch.

“We really thought we’d only do it for a year or two tops,” Barnes said.

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