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updated: 9/14/2012 5:14 AM

Sparks fly over Northwest Fourth Fest

Hoffman Estates mayoral hopefuls spar over costs

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  • Although Northwest Fourth Fest lost about $128,000 this year, village officials say they are working on improvements for next year and believe it will start breaking even in a few years.

       Although Northwest Fourth Fest lost about $128,000 this year, village officials say they are working on improvements for next year and believe it will start breaking even in a few years.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Hoffman Estates mayoral candidate Craig Bernacki would like to see Elgin, Hanover Township and Hanover Township put more money toward the fest.

       Hoffman Estates mayoral candidate Craig Bernacki would like to see Elgin, Hanover Township and Hanover Township put more money toward the fest.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • William McLeod

      William McLeod

  • Craig Bernacki

      Craig Bernacki

 
 

Hoffman Estates mayoral candidate Craig Bernacki said he would like to see Elgin, Hanover Park and Hanover Township put more money toward the Northwest Fourth Fest, which he said was a disappointing event with "pathetic" fireworks.

"It was built up and the expectations were really high, and the end results were really low," Bernacki said of the festival. "They need to improve it."

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His complaints about the new event include not only the 22-minute fireworks show, but also bad traffic in and out of the event and garbage left over in nearby neighborhoods from visitors. He also was not pleased with the overall "dollars and cents" for the event.

According to a statement of net income, the festival had a net loss of about $128,000.

Hoffman Estates Mayor William McLeod and Village Manager Jim Norris admit there were kinks at the five-day festival, which kicked off July 4 at the Sears Centre Arena, but both said it is worth investing in and they already have plans in motion to make improvements next year.

"Anytime you do an event the first time in a new location you learn from things that didn't go as well as you wanted them to go and you improve on them," McLeod said. He added the traffic backups occurred because of buckling pavement on Higgins Road, and the way the parking lots were emptied was not ideal.

"These are correctable ... and we will correct them."

Norris said the village's Fourth of July celebration has always showed a loss -- it lost about $63,500 in 2011 and about $88,000 in 2010 -- but he believes the move to the Sears Centre will allow the event to break even in three to four years.

In 2012 the Fourth Fest lost about $12,000 more than the $116,000 it was budgeted to lose.

"We now have a truly enhanced opportunity for sponsorships, and I mean major-dollar sponsorships," Norris said, adding he expects the $12,000 difference between the budgeted loss and actual loss to be cut in half at next year's festival through increased revenues, new fees and more volunteers instead of paid staff.

This year's $43,500 fireworks show was paid for with $15,000 from Elgin, $15,000 from Hoffman Estates, $10,000 from Hanover Park and $5,000 from Hanover Township.

Norris said he would agree that the fireworks went off a little too fast, but that there are plans to fix that with the fireworks contract next year.

Bernacki said he thinks marketing for the Northwest Fourth Fest was "misleading" because it didn't make clear that Elgin, Hanover Park and Hanover Township would contribute money only for the fireworks, plus some manpower.

But McLeod said he felt it was "very clear" that Hanover Park, Hanover Township and Elgin were providing money only for the fireworks, along with some police, fire and public works personnel.

Those workers were on hand only for July 4 and 5, McLeod said, but he hopes next year to have "a joint venture for the entire event."

Bernacki said he knows the first year of an event is always a learning experience and "never perfect." He thought Hanover Township's contribution was generous for its size, but he felt Hanover Park and especially Elgin should have paid more.

"It was way good for the other three entities," he said. "I would say, you know what, let Elgin host it and we'll throw in $15,000 next year."

If elected mayor, Bernacki said he would re-examine whether to hold an event at the Sears Centre again and he would consult Hoffman Estates residents to see what kind of 4th of July celebration they would like.

"I don't care about the Elgin residents or the other (residents)," he said. "If they want a say they have to put up a lot more money, as far as I'm concerned."

He added he would take a different approach to the festival.

"You underpromise and overdeliver," he said. "They surely overpromised but underdelivered."

Bernacki and McLeod both announced their candidacies in late August. Petitions for Hoffman Estates municipal offices must be filed Nov. 19-26.

Norris said the festival was moved to the Sears Centre partly in anticipation of 2013 construction on Hassell Road, where it was held in the past. He said the new location also indirectly helps residents and the village's entertainment district.

McLeod added that the celebration had outgrown the old location.

Despite the 100-degree temperatures, McLeod said there were between 30,000 and 35,000 attendees on July 4 alone, which was about 10,000 more visitors than expected. Overall, he felt the festival went very well.

"We're looking forward to this becoming an even bigger event," he said. "It's great working with our neighbors."

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