How Wilmette celebrates America’s birth
Dave Zier, owner of Zier's Prime Meat and Poultry, shows off some cured meat to Mike Soler of Northfield at the shop June 23. Zier said the Independence Day holiday season is one of his business's liveliest. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 29, 2012 6:59AM
On Independence Day, Americans across the nation will attend parades, watch fireworks, spend time with their families and in general celebrate their country’s birthday with red white and blue enthusiasm. Wilmette residents and officials are no different.
For Village board member Julie Wolf, Independence Day means a low-key backyard barbecue with family, then a quick bicycle ride over to Gillson Park.
“We never miss the fireworks, and we have a favorite place on the sand where we sit to watch them,” she said. Wolf said she has watched fireworks on the lake at Gillson almost every year that she’s lived in the village. This year will be the 26th, she said.
Wolf’s village board colleague Bob Bielinski said Independence Day is especially important to him because it’s his birthday.
“It’s a great day to have a birthday, because everyone already has the day off and everyone’s already celebrating,” he joked last week.
In fact, he said, one of the unique aspects of Independence Day is that it is a specifically celebratory holiday, unlike more solemn occasions such as Memorial Day.
This year Bielinski and his family will take in festivities at Gillson, have a barbecue at his sister’s house, then head for their favorite spot to view fireworks; the lawn of the Baha’i Temple on Sheridan Road. His young daughters are already excited, Bielinski said.
On July 4, they will attend the Winnetka Fourth of July parade, and then recuperate from two days of activities. But the weariness is worth it, he said.
“I love the holiday. One of my favorite things to see is when people put up bunting and decorate their houses. And I always get a little chill when the fireworks start,” he said. “We truly are a lucky people as Americans.”
Wilmette resident Alice Schaff, too, will be watching fireworks on July 4, but she and her family will probably be sitting in a boat on a little Wisconsin lake when they do. The Wilmette School District 39 board member said last week she and her family have celebrated the holiday at their Wisconsin cottage “since before I was born.”
“It’s a big celebration up there; there’s a firemen’s parade and a picnic, and we just all relax together as a family.”
Of Independence Day, Schaf said, “on the surface, it’s a lot of good family time, but I think more importantly it’s a great way to celebrate our country and to be thankful not only for our family but for everything our country stands for.”
Some Wilmette residents and officials won’t have much time to relax on Independence, or during the days leading up to the holiday. That doesn’t mean they don’t plan to enjoy as much of it as they can.
“For me, (Independence Day) is everything that the United States are,” butcher Dave Zeir said last week, as he and his staff at Zier’s Prime Meat and Poultry geared up for what he said was one of his shop’s busiest holidays of the year. Store patrons come in looking for Zier’s specially prepared burgers, shishkabobs, and sausages: “anything you can put on a grill, we offer, or make here ourselves.
“It can get pretty busy, loud and raucous as people come in to get their supplies,” but the atmosphere is always positive, he said.
Zeir said his son and two daughters grew up celebrating with Wilmette’s fireworks even when he was busy working, catering pig roasts or other events for area neighbors. He’ll be doing that again this year, Zeir said, and will probably get a chance to see the fireworks while he does so.
“Maybe some people take the holiday for granted, but I don’t. I think we’re the best country on the planet. We can express our opinions, whatever side of the political aisle we’re on, without going to jail for it. And we’re a place where people want to help their neighbors,” he said.
Wilmette police Commander Patrick Collins, who spends the weeks before July 4 working with park district officials to ensure smooth traffic patterns and to prepare for smooth holiday enforcement, said he will actually work early July 4 during the Fun Run and Walk. After that, though, he’ll head to his home and enjoy the fireworks visible from his backyard, courtesy of Six Flags Great America.
Like Collins, Bill Lambrecht has had a full plate preparing for Independence Day. Lambrecht, parks and planning superintendent for the park district, jokes that after working until midnight on July 3, then coming back to Gillson at 4 a.m. July 4 to prepare for the Fun Run, he makes sure everything runs smoothly, then heads home for his own quiet celebration.
“By 11 a.m. I’m able to come home. I put on the movie “1776” and take a bit of a nap,” he said.