JOLIET – Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park will be busy this summer.
The park has new events, more staff and is adding something different to its traditional activities.
Even the park fountain is slated to be fixed this year, although it will not be quite the same as it used to be.
“We’re definitely trying to develop more events and more family-friendly events,” said Debbie Greene, who was hired in May as the park’s community development director.
Returning this summer is the Independence Day weekend fireworks show, which will be July 2. The park also is bringing back a shorter version of the old Waterway Daze, which was a three-day event. River Fest will be held on one day – July 23.
Greene’s job in part is to generate more money to fund events and activities at the park. She was hired by the park board, which raises funds and runs the park with the city.
The city owns Bicentennial Park and pays for other park staff, including a park manager. The park manager position has not been filled since Rich Liebich retired a year ago. But the city is interviewing candidates this week and intends to fill the position, City Manager Jim Hock said.
Hock said the city expects to have the fountain in the park working again later this year.
The fountain won’t be quite what it used to be, said Jeff Barnes, secretary of the Will-Joliet Bicentennial Park Inc. Board. The fountain in past years became an issue because too many people were wandering into it, he said.
“You won’t be able to swim in it,” Barnes said.
But the park board and city have joined together to bring back more activity to the park, he said.
“We’re very excited that we were able to hire the community development director,” Barnes said. “We’re even more excited that the city is bringing back a park manager. That’s why the board is willing to do these additional two and maybe three events.”
The possible third event would be a return of a fall festival, although that has not been decided.
The old Pumpkinfest, as well as Waterway Daze and a Father’s Day car show, ended as the city made budget cuts during the recession.
Barnes noted that the cost of police security alone at the last three-day Waterway Daze was $17,000, and it was a free event.
The park also is adding an Art 4 Every 1 art show Aug. 20, when artists from Cornerstone Services and other agencies that serve people with disabilities will display their works.
Interim Park Manager Deanna Opsahl said the event was inspired by the Cornerstone art show held in April at the Joliet Area Historical Museum.
“We’re looking forward to this summer in many ways,” Opsahl said. “One will be to be more busy.”
SUMMER ACTIVITIES AT BILLIE LIMACHER BICENTENNIAL PARK
• Every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. – Concerts on the Hill
• June 17 to 19 and 24 to 26 – “American Idiot” rock musical
• July 2 – Independence Day celebration and fireworks
• July 16 to 17 – “Little Mermaid” performed by youth drama camp
• July 23 – River Fest
• July 30 – Battle of the Bands
• Aug. 5 to 7 and 12 to 14 – “Grease” musical performed by Joliet Drama Guild
• Aug. 20 – Art 4 Every 1