There's almost nothing that says Americana more than a Fourth of July fireworks show. As children, we couldn't wait for the day we could stay up late, anticipating that first dazzling display in the sky. As adults, we want to share those moments each year with our loved ones, oohing and ahhing with every new burst of color.
Oftentimes in the suburbs, while in place to watch one town's show, we could be lucky enough to catch glimpses of other nearby community displays as well.
But that tradition has been threatened in recent years as expenses mount and municipal leaders look to cut back on nonessential services.
As the Daily Herald's David Conway reported Saturday, the belt-tightening has led officials in suburbs like Gurnee and Roselle to drop their Fourth of July fireworks shows altogether.
"There's only so much money to go around, and we're not willing to give up day-to-day services in order to fund the program right now," Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik said.
Roselle's Assistant Village Administrator Jason Bielawski referred to other shows residents could go watch: "I think people know we're not the only fireworks show in the area."
That's true. But we urge leaders in these towns and others that have cut back to look for creative ways to bring this long-held tradition back. It promotes community in a way that many other events do not.
For example, in Mount Prospect, the local Lions Club started a "Bang for a Buck" program. Cans were placed in local businesses asking residents to donate a dollar or two to help fund the fireworks displays. And it worked, as Mount Prospect will continue to have shows on both July 4 and July 8.
"We did not want to cut the second set of fireworks, so the Lions had to come up with the money," said club President Barb Laz. "It's thanks to funding from the village and funding from the people in the village that we've been able to keep it."
That's 74 years of tradition. Mount Prospect residents should be proud of what they've done.
Farther west, three communities have banded together to put on a festival and a July 4 fireworks show. Elgin, Hanover Park and Hoffman Estates (together with Hanover Township) will host Northwest Fourth-Fest at Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates.
"We've seen community after community cut back," said Hoffman Estates Mayor William McLeod. "We've decided to grow but also link together so that it's not a significant cost for each city."
The new plan means Elgin is taking part in a fireworks show for the first time since 2009, silencing critics who had not let up asking for a show. Hanover Park, which never had a show previously, now can share the excitement.
This is a smart move that we hope proves to be a success that other towns facing budget pressures can emulate.