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updated: 7/6/2012 5:23 PM

Vernon Hills fireworks finale fizzles, but makeup planned

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  • Fireworks explode over the Vernon Hills Summer Celebration in 2002.

      Fireworks explode over the Vernon Hills Summer Celebration in 2002.

  • The first day of Vernon Hills Summer Celebration 2005 ended with a spectacular fireworks show.

       The first day of Vernon Hills Summer Celebration 2005 ended with a spectacular fireworks show.


Bystanders at Vernon Hills' Fourth of July fireworks display got a bit less zip than expected when the grand finale fizzled.

"It just kind of seemed like they stopped halfway through -- we thought it would keep going on," said 13-year-old Sam Brandl, who attended the annual event on Big Bear Lake at Century Park with a few friends. "You could say we were disappointed."

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The culprit was a combination of high temperatures and a small grass fire that melted a piece of equipment that controlled the apex of the display, which normally runs 20 to 22 minutes.

"I think we missed about two and a half to three minutes of the show. It's the capper that people love to see," Assistant Village Manager John Kalmar said.

After meeting with fire officials and representatives from Melrose Pyrotechnics, Kalmar crafted an explanation for residents and others in attendance that was posted on Facebook and the village's website. Fewer than 20 comments or questions were received, he added.

Kalmar explained that most fireworks shows are coordinated by a computer program, which sends orders to equipment that controls racks of shells. During any show, he said, small grass fires occur when the shells are fired but usually have no impact on the operation.

In this case, a small fire developed and destroyed the circuitry that controlled the finale. The show was brought to an immediate halt. The bewildered crowd hung out awhile, waiting for more and then dispersed when it became apparent the show was over, Brandl said.

The village isn't sure whether the fire could have been prevented, and Melrose has not experienced similar programs elsewhere, according to Kalmar.

The village has discussed with Melrose ways to avoid a similar problem from developing about 9:30 p.m. July 19 during the finale of the fireworks show on the first day of Vernon Hills' Summer Celebration festival. Those fireworks are shot from an island between Big and Little Bear lakes, the same spot as the Fourth of July show.

"We're going to water the site a little bit more," Kalmar said.

And those who may have felt shortchanged will get another shot, so to speak, as Melrose has promised to add oomph at Summer Celebration to make up for the Fourth of July deficit.

"They're going to enhance that show," Kalmar said. "It'll be a robust grand finale."

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