Many work to make Wilmette’s Independence Day fun a success
Independence Day 2012 events lineup
Updated: July 29, 2012 7:01AM
The beauty of fireworks over Lake Michigan may be foremost on the mind of delighted area residents who remember Wilmettte’s 2012 Independence Day, and their children may remember the fun of games and sports at Gillson Park, while music lovers focus on the melodies provided by the Palatine Concert Band.
But they will owe much of their Independence Day enjoyment to the dedicated men and women in the Wilmette Park District, and their partners in the Wilmette Police and Public Works departments.
For weeks, and in some cases months, before July 3, village and park district staff labor to ensure the fireworks go off, the children’s games are in place, entertainers are there to entertain, and the routes to Gillson Park are clearly marked.
Work on this year’s celebration actually began only two weeks after last year’s fireworks faded, Wilmette Parks District superintendent Bill Lambrecht said June 21.
“We vet any problems we had, we talk about what we should change, things that we want to tweak a bit,” said Lambrecht, who coordinates Independence Day events for the district. (The park district has run the July 4 events since about 1972, taking over from independent groups like the Wilmette Jaycees, the Rotary Club and the Knights of Collumbus, Lambrecht said.)
By November, Lambrecht has started signing entertainment and rental contracts for the coming year, and planning staff schedules; ensuring that about 110 camp counselors, and 30-40 lakefront staff are there to keep events running smoothly.
That’s no small task when afternoon and evening events draw as many people as Wilmette’s – Lambrecht and Wilmette Police Commander Patrick Collins said last week that the 2011 Independence Day holiday attracted between 20,000 and 25,000 people.
Keeping that large a crowd moving smoothly is the job of Wilmette’s police and public works teams.
“Last week we got all the key players together,” police Commander Patrick Collins said June 20. “We confirm the (traffic) routes, and the route for the Pace bus, we go over what happened last year, which in this case went very smoothly.”
Collins referred to the Pace bus shuttle, which has run during Wilmette Independence Day night celebrations for many years. He praised Pace officials for providing a service that allows hundred of attendees to park away from Gillson Park, and avoid the parking woes that might otherwise make traffic in the neighborhood around Gillson even more challenging than it is.
“It allows us to move people in and out of the area really very quickly,” Collins said. People who bike to the concert and fireworks also lighten the traffic and parking load, he said approvingly.
Gillson Park visitors may not notice the work of village public works employees, “because we work behind the scenes,” assistant department director Ken Kennedy said June 20. But without the crowd control barriers and fencing that public works employees put up – and the adjustments they make to some traffic stoplights – getting to and from the scene would be a lot less fun.
“Our guys also stay and everybody’s gone home, I’d guess until 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., collecting barriers and barricades,” Kennedy said.
The team of park district and village employees ultimately don’t mind the work.
“It’s a nice celebration, and it’s a beautiful spot to watch the display,” Kennedy said. “We all work together so that people can do that.”