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updated: 6/28/2011 9:04 PM

How tiny Itasca pulls off one of the state's biggest fireworks shows

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  • The Hamilton Lakes campus in Itasca is the setting for what may be the state's biggest fireworks display in terms of attendance.

      The Hamilton Lakes campus in Itasca is the setting for what may be the state's biggest fireworks display in terms of attendance.
    Daily Herald file photo

  • Scott and Mark Cardosi, left, of Melrose Pyrotechnics, set off Itasca's Fourth of July fireworks, which are coordinated with music.

      Scott and Mark Cardosi, left, of Melrose Pyrotechnics, set off Itasca's Fourth of July fireworks, which are coordinated with music.
    Bev Horne/Daily Herald file photo

  • The Itasca fireworks show typically draws about 50,000 people

      The Itasca fireworks show typically draws about 50,000 people
    Daily Herald file photo

 

It's a village of less than 9,000 residents, but Itasca knows how to draw a crowd.

For more than a decade, the village's annual Fourth of July fireworks show at Hamilton Lakes has been one of the most popular displays in the suburbs. It may be the largest in the state in attendance now that Chicago has canceled its fireworks show.

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Entertainment and some details vary each year, but organizers never mess with the basics that can draw crowds of up to 50,000, including visitors from throughout the Midwest.

This year's event will feature U2 cover band Vertigo, as well as soul group World Class Noise. As the village and co-sponsor Hamilton Partners deal with the effects of the recession, they are trying to find a popular alternative to expensive mainstream bands such as Lifehouse and Smash Mouth that performed in recent years.

"In order to keep the cost in line with what you think revenue might generate, (we) went with a very good set of bands that were affordable," said Village Administrator Evan Teich.

The village also is finalizing details with the U.S. Army for interactive displays, a popular tradition. Other returning features include food vendors, a beer tent and, of course, the 25-minute fireworks display.

Since the show started 13 years ago, the village has used Melrose Pyrotechnics, a company that choreographs each explosion and color to music.

The idea was to create a holiday tradition while also showcasing the village and the Hamilton Lakes property to potential tenants, residents or businesses.

"If you're not familiar with Itasca, and this is your only opportunity to come here, what a great setting," said Teich. "For those who have never been to the campus, it's gorgeous, with walking trails, ball fields, a golf driving range and restaurants. It's really a class-A office park with fantastic access to local expressways and the airport."

Village President Jeff Pruyn added that visitors also get a peek at the ambience and resources of Itasca itself.

"Every time we can get thousands of people to our village and show them all the other things we have to do in Itasca, it's a good thing," he said.

Rick Staback, Hamilton Partners senior asset manager, said the fireworks do generate some "byproduct hotel stays" at the Wyndham Hotel on its campus, but the primary goal is the showcase for an audience from Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Iowa.

This year, Staback and his company helped secure some sponsors for the event, which has a price tag of about $250,000.

Last year, Itasca paid about $60,000 from its hotel tax revenues -- which state statute says can only be used for tourism -- and another $30,000 in overtime for police and public works staff to be on duty.

Hamilton Partners makes up the difference with the $20 per car charge for parking, as well as through securing sponsorships and donating "hundreds of man-hours" in resources setting up the site, Staback said.

Both Itasca leaders and Staback said their partnership is the key to the fireworks' continued success, especially at a time when many suburbs are canceling their Fourth of July displays due to budget cutbacks following the recession.

"We enjoy a strong, good working relationship with the village," Staback said.

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