Chicagoans enjoy 4th of July weekend as fireworks, festivals roar back to life

Chicago fireworks tonight: Displays taking place across area
CHICAGO (WLS) -- A busy and fun weekend is ahead for July 4 in the Chicago area, as many people start to celebrate their independence from COVID-19.

Whether you are spending the holiday weekend at the bar, on the lake or out at Buckingham fountain, the 4th of July holiday is shaking up to be a fun one.

"Margaritas, Pina Coladas, and tiki drinks -- on the weekends we do a special tiki drink. People love those," said Daniel Castro with Pablo's Tiki Snack Shack.

At Pablo's Tiki Snack Shack, Chicago's only floating bar and grill, the line has been growing all day.

"We have not stopped all day and we do not want to stop until next week," Castro said.

Everyone is invited to the party, even your furry friends.

A slice of island time along Lake Michigan just outside of Du Sable Harbor.

"Getting back to normal life. We are happy about this," Castro added.

This is the first holiday weekend without strict COVID-19 protocols in place since the start of the pandemic.

With fewer restrictions, people are taking advantage of the activities.

The crew at Urban Kayak was also slammed Saturday.

"People are ready to be out and active," said Jacob Hollabaugh with Urban Kayaks.

Their stand-up paddleboards and kayaks have been renting fast with hundreds of people heading out on the water each day.

"This weekend we are putting 500 people on the water in a day and another 3-400 on the lake. That is every day. All summer," Hollabaugh said. "As many as we can fit, we get them out on the boat all day long."

The sunny day was the perfect backdrop for a holiday weekend.

"[I] just want to explore it out. We will go to the Navy Pier today," said Karanthi Reddy as she enjoys her holiday weekend.

The vendors remained busy as people took a rest in the shade.

The city said it's a time to celebrate Independence Day weekend, as well as Chicago's full reopening.

So many visitors made the journey to Starved Rock State Park in LaSalle County, parking was at capacity by 1 p.m., and officials said the site was closed to additional visitors.



The Chain o' Lakes Marina is expecting to do brisk business this weekend as well. Wave runner riders and boaters of all stripes came to gas up.

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"It doesn't even compare to last year," said Elizabeth Jaworski. "It's good to get back to normal, get back on the water, have fun and enjoy the holiday."

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After the COVID pandemic essentially cancled the Fourth of July last year, people are gathering all over the Chicago area for fun in the sun with friends and family.



That joy is what so many people in McHenry County are counting on as they ease out of lockdown.

"Celebrate our freedom, right? We finally have it back, it's Fourth of July, let's have fun," said Steve Hermansson.

For Steve Moulis, it means a boom for business; this is the first summer holiday post-vaccinations.

But it means something more too, for a business that's been passed down through the years and survived the pandemic.

"This is like a ma and pa shop," said Moulis. "I work here with my wife. That's my daughter; my sons are all part of the operation here. I'd be like third generation, kids'll be fourth generation."

Over at Jett Funn Watersports Rentals, manager Kevin Lynch said he is booked up.

"This Fourth of July is gonna be extremely busy," said manager Kevin Lynch. "We've got all of our boats, we've got wave runners, power boats, pontoon boats, fishing boats, deck boats, canoes, kayaks and our hydro bikes all booked up for this weekend."

And at Dockers restaurants right on Fox Lake, they're ready for the weekend action.

"I think because the fireworks too, we'll have them again this year and we didn't have them last year, so that usually will bring people out," said Justice Haase, who works at Dockers Restaurant.

While Hometown Fest in Palatine looks a bit different, without a fireworks display or parade, everyone was still having a good time.

"With an 8- and 4-year-old, you are going to do what is safe. They are having a great time whether there are fireworks or not," said Brett Bildstein, a Palatine resident.
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