Chicago area prepares for holiday weekend

July 2, 2009 (LISLE, Ill.) In downtown Chicago road closures due to Friday's Fourth of July fireworks show and Taste of Chicago will make it very difficult for drivers to get around.

From one small room, operators can monitor traffic patterns and other concerns all around the Grant Park area. The city sets up the emergency operations center for special events that bring huge crowds to downtown. And the Taste of Chicago certainly fits that definition. The center will help police to determine when to close streets and reroute traffic as more than a million people make their way to the lakefront for Friday's annual fireworks show.

"The street closures within the central business district may happen as early as 6 o'clock. Lakeshore Drive I would expect to be closed somewhere around 7:45. But it's all based on the size of the crowd," said Rich Guidice, deputy director, OEMC.

Helping direct those huge crowds out of the area when the fireworks are over is also a big job. From the operations center they can also monitor Metra and the CTA, by far the best mode of transportation, they say, on this night.

But the lakefront is not the only place that will be crowded with fireworks fans over the holiday weekend.

Melrose Pyrotechnics has most of the fireworks show set up and ready to go for Itasca's big show on Saturday. The company does the show, along with about 400 others across the country on July 4th, including the lakefront. The 23 minute show takes months of planning and work to choreograph.

"It's not just where we can put a bunch, a pile of fireworks and a truck and send it on its way. It takes a long time to actually put it all together and have it work the right way," said Wynn Cramer, Melrose Pyrotechnics.

City officials meantime are suggesting people take advantage of the professional fireworks rather than trying it on their own. They say even a seemingly harmless sparkler can be very dangerous.

"You instruct your child to stay away from an oven that is set at 350 because it's too hot. But you hand over a sparkler that can burn at over five times the temperature of an oven," said Chief Michael Figolah, Illinois Fire Safety Alliance.

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