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posted: 7/13/2012 5:30 AM

Grandwood Park to postpone fireworks because of drought, dry conditions

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By Jennifer Earl
jearl@dailyherald.com

Grandwood Park's Summerfest has joined the ranks of festivals that have fallen victim to the drought, forcing organizers to postpone its fireworks show.

It becomes the fifth Lake County fireworks show -- after Antioch, Mundelein, Round Lake Park District and Wauconda -- to postpone because of the dry conditions this month. Grandwood Park has rescheduled its 50th anniversary fireworks show to Saturday, Oct. 6.

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Gurnee Fire Department Fire Marshall Tom Keefe, who inspected the site Wednesday, said there was much concern over the potential for spot fires because conditions have become so dry in the last five to six weeks.

"The fallout that some of the shells have, when those shells go up and they burst they look really pretty, but hot ash and sparks make it to the ground 200 to 300 feet or more away," Keefe said. "It's too dry to do a safe shoot."

Gurnee officials and Grandwood Park fest organizers agreed it's better to be safe than sorry. Keefe noted problems in other communities, such as Pingree Grove, where a fireworks show sparked 15 small brush fires last week and caused the local fire protection district to pull the plug on the show's grand finale.

"I'd rather answer for canceling the show than to answer to authorities and critics about why we kept it going," he said.

Vernon Hills' Fourth of July fireworks display also stopped short this year because of a small grass fire that melted a piece of equipment that controlled the apex of the display.

Keefe said fireworks have been at the root of several recent brush fires.

A 20-year-old Buffalo Grove man was accused July 8 of using illegal fireworks and sparking a fast-moving brush fire that produced a 30-foot wall of flames that threatened dozens of homes. An 18-year-old Lincolnshire man is accused of using illegal fireworks that caused a fire in a slough in Long Grove on July 4.

Officials said all they can do now is hope for a little rain.

"It's going to take a quantity of rain to be able to green up vegetation," Keefe said. "Right now, it's like fields of straw and hay -- you walk on it, you crunch. There's no green anywhere."

The Gurnee Park District, which will host Gurnee Days in August, is already preparing for its fireworks show by watering the area of the launch site.

With the fireworks show canceled, Summerfest organizers are looking elsewhere for entertainment.

Bill Reil, president of the Grandwood Park Civic Association, said organizers will look into adding more games to the open area partitioned off for the fireworks display located near Grandwood Park, 36753 N. Hutchins Road.

"It's out of our hands. We're disappointed but we will carry on," Reil said.

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