CHICAGO (WLS) --From parades to fireworks, Chicago area residents celebrated the Fourth of July with friends and family on a gorgeous day.
At Navy Pier, the security was tight as crowds gathered to watch fireworks light up the city's skyline. Around 7 p.m., Navy Pier officials said the pier was officially full, and no one else would be allowed through the gates Friday.
"We'll be checking bags throughout the entire day for the safety and security of everyone who comes to the pier," Nick Shields, Navy Pier spokesman, said. No pets, no bikes, no fireworks, and no coolers allowed.
Chicago police officers were also on patrol - in the air and on the water.
"No other place can you have this view. The city and the fireworks, you can't beat that," Anton Jimenez, in town from Minnesota, said.
And to beat the crowds for a good fireworks-watching spot, Sheryl Walters found a bench early- and saved it for hours.
"Just waiting for the fireworks tonight," Walters said.
Some say it's important to remember what the Fourth of July symbolizes.
"We're a country people look up to. They see we have things other people don't have. That's important. I think just embracing that freedom," Branden Harvey, University of Illinois, said.
"It just feels good. You just get chills when you hear the National Anthem. It just feels great. I can't put it in words. Feels great. Amazing!" Navy Seaman Josef McBride said.
"It's beautiful and really family friendly. We're enjoying it. The weather is amazing," Randi Bell, in town from Texas, said.
Lakefront crowded with beach goers
Further north along Chicago's lakefront at Foster Beach, the Ezra family started early.
"We live nearby so we thought we'd take a nice little bike ride and there's World Cup soccer on today so we come out and play a little before we watch the games," Sam Ezra said.
They hit the soccer field at Foster Beach and plan to spend the whole day outdoors.
"Watch some fireworks, barbecue, hang out with the family," Ezra said.
With sunshine and comfortable temperatures, people crowded beaches and parade routes. For Cewdlina Gewarges, the Fourth of July parade in Evanston is a family tradition.
"I had everybody get up early. I said we need to get up, it's gonna be packed. Find a spot 'cause there aren't going to be any spots by the afternoon," she said.
Thirty family members gathered around the grill.
"We get to see the firecrackers and it's July fourth and I'm with my family," Sweetlana Padilla said.
In Evanston, chairs were lined up nice and early for the big parade down Central Street.
"It's totally amazing-- not too hot, not too cold. The breeze is wonderful. It's a great time to sit and enjoy the 4th and the independence of our nation," Rhonda Hartwell said.
One hundred and ten floats participate in the Evanston parade. Celebrations continue Friday night with the Palatine Concert Band, which plays a free show before fireworks.
Evanston's fireworks display follows the band performance.