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posted: 1/28/2010 12:01 AM

Chicago cancels annual July 3 fireworks extravaganza

New July 4 shows add competition for suburban displays

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Chicago will forego its July 3 fireworks extravaganza, which annually drew up to a million people to the lakefront at Grant Park, in favor of three smaller displays on July 4.

Chicago's change of dates, meant to save money, left some suburban festival organizers worried about the extra competition for fireworks displays on Independence Day itself. Organizers of the few suburban July 3 fireworks shows said they'd welcome extra attendance, but Arlington Park's July 3 display - one of the suburbs' biggest on that date - already sells out, Arlington Park spokesman Dave Zenner said.

Chicago officials said Wednesday they'll cancel the fireworks July 3 in Grant Park, a centerpiece of the Taste of Chicago festival.

Instead, they'll add two more fireworks shows on July 4, when Navy Pier already puts on a display. The new fireworks programs will be near the 63rd Street Beach and Montrose Harbor, said Mary May, a spokeswoman for Chicago's Mayor's Office of Special Events.

City officials portrayed the change as a chance for more people to view the fireworks.

"We're bringing fireworks to the neighborhoods. It's a very positive thing," said Megan McDonald, director of the special events office.

Chicago's shift to July 4 could hurt attendance at Mundelein's fireworks on the same day, Trustee Ray Semple said, using his own family as an example.

"My kids are going to have to choose between Mundelein and Chicago, and I hope Mundelein will win out," Semple said.

Mayor Joe Broda of Lisle, which offered fireworks July 2, 3 and 4 last year at the annual Eyes to the Skies festival, says it's likely Chicago's shift will bring more people to Lisle's fest - but it's not yet clear which nights they'll find fireworks.

"Our finance committee has been discussing cutting back on the $30,000 to $40,000 we usually spend to sponsor the three nights of fireworks," Broda said.

Those determined to see July 3 fireworks might find competition for seats. Arlington Park's July 3 fireworks display drew more than 30,000 people last year, Zenner said. Tickets go on sale April 1 on the track's Web site, and last year's event sold out. Tickets were $3 in advance and $5 at the door, though this year's prices have not been set.

In Oak Brook, "we're pretty full for the fireworks show," Village Manager David Niemeyer said of the July 3 event that also draws 30,000. "But we would certainly like people to come to the Taste of Oak Brook," which begins earlier that day.

Organizers of Palatine's fireworks, usually July 3, are considering trying to shift to July 4 on the theory most people will be off work on Monday, July 5, co-chair Jennifer Iannuzzelli said, adding that the show already draws 20,000 people. "There's hardly room to walk around as it is. I expect we'd have a few more people come out, but I don't know that we'd go out of our way to advertise more than usual."

In Chicago, shifting the fireworks, along with canceling the Venetian Night boat parade and several other summer-festival changes, is expected to save $1 million to $2 million, McDonald said. The other changes include canceling the Chicago Outdoor Film Festival and the Chicago Criterium bike race and moving Celtic Fest Chicago, Chicago Country Music Festival and Viva Chicago Latin Music Festival to Millennium Park from Grant Park, she said.

Taste of Chicago, June 25 through July 4, will close at 6 p.m. July 3, McDonald said. In the past, the Taste has remained open until 9 p.m. on fireworks night. But the daily opening time will move up to 10 a.m. from 11 a.m., she said.

• Daily Herald Staff Writers Elisabeth Mistretta, Sheila Ahern, Justin Kmitch, Melissa Jenco, Kim Pohl and Russell Lissau contributed to this report.