City's July 3rd fireworks canceled

January 28, 2010 4:39:39 AM PST
For more than 30 years, millions of Chicagoans have enjoyed the July 3rd fireworks extravaganza on the lakefront, but that tradition has fizzled because the city wants to make the event more cost effective. In addition, changes are planned for the Taste of Chicago and several other city festivals.

The annual July third fireworks extravaganza is a tradition. It has always been a challenge, and in recent years it's produced headaches for police with some incidents of spill-over violence in the Loop.

With the city's budget woes deepening, the office of special events is changing the fireworks landscape to do more with less.

For nearly three decades now - a massive fireworks show on the lakefront every July third with - as police usually project - over a million people watching. This will now change.

The Taste of Chicago on July 3rd will close at 6pm and there will be no fireworks that night. The fireworks instead will be held the following night July 4th - which this year is a Sunday - at three different locations: Navy Pier, Montrose Beach on the North Side and 63rd Street Beach on the South Side. All three shows will be synchronized, and will last about 15-minutes, which is just a bit shorter than the traditional lakefront show.

"We're doing it to be more fiscally responsible because we have to be. I would say that we're also doing it to more effectively manage what happens at the Taste of Chicago, as well as citywide on an already busy holiday weekend," said Megan McDonald, Mayor's Office of Special Events.

Changing the fireworks plan and moving four music festivals from Grand Park to Millennium Park will save between one and $2 million. That savings doesn't come from changing a fireworks display, it comes from cutting manpower.

The traditional million plus crowd on a single night has required a lot of police, and other city workers. Three simultaneous shows at different sites, the city says, will lesson that load.

"I understand why the administration wants to break it up into smaller more manageable separate events. We are paying a tremendous amount in overtime," said Ald. Brendan Reilly, 42nd Ward.

The downtown alderman says the change makes sense but he's not sure yet of the impact on Chicago's restaurants and hotels.

"It strikes me as a creative way to both continue a fireworks tradition, albeit differently, while saving a big chunk of change," Ald. Helen Shiller, 46th Ward, said.

Chicago always finds a way to celebrate the season. Now, in the midst of winter, there are snow sculptures along Michigan Avenue. And the people there Wednesday evening had an opinion about the changes for the fireworks show.

"I think a lot of people will be disappointed," said Kate Sanford-Garcia, Chicago resident. "I'll be disappointed too."

"It probably won't feel the same. It will probably feel like every other fireworks," said Melissa Lara, Chicago resident.

"I would say from a money standpoint, it's a good move," said Alex Martinez, Chicago resident.

In October, the mayor announced he was cutting another popular event, Venetian Night. Venetian Night attracted tens of thousands of people in 2009.