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posted: 3/1/2014 8:01 AM

Great Lakes Naval Station back with Fourth of July celebration

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  • Great Lakes Naval Station's Fourth of July celebration has had a variety of fun options. Federal budget cuts led to cancellation of the 2013 festival, but it'll return this year July 3 and 4.

       Great Lakes Naval Station's Fourth of July celebration has had a variety of fun options. Federal budget cuts led to cancellation of the 2013 festival, but it'll return this year July 3 and 4.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer 2011


Great Lakes Naval Station will revive its Fourth of July festival that was scrubbed last year due to the federal government's mandatory budget cuts.

Similar to past years, organizers project 35,000 to 40,000 attendees during the bash's two days on the sprawling base between Lake Bluff and North Chicago. Great Lakes doesn't charge admission or a parking fee for the festival.

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Great Lakes spokesman John Sheppard said many at the base, which typically is off-limits to the public, are excited at being able to host civilians again for a couple of days.

"The way you tell the Navy story is to let them on the base," Sheppard said Friday.

Navy officials cited the budget cuts, from what was called the sequester, as the reason for canceling the Fourth of July celebration in 2013. It wasn't the first blip for the fest.

Great Lakes' party opened to the public in the mid-1990s, went on hiatus after the 2001 terrorist attacks and resumed for a five-year stretch in 2008.

John Prue, installation program director for the base's Morale, Welfare and Recreation Department, said the go-ahead for resuming the Fourth of July celebration recently was received after meetings with the commander of Navy Region Midwest, Capt. Francis Martin, and other brass.

Prue declined to specify the pros and cons debated by the naval officials before they agreed the festival should return, but he said Great Lakes' safety and security were the top concerns.

"Obviously, the cons did not outweigh the pros," he said.

This year's Fourth of July celebration at Great Lakes is expected to be similar in size and scope to the last one in 2012.

Up to 18 food vendors, beer stands, base tours, bands, a carnival and fireworks will be part of the action on July 3 and 4. Prue said each evening will be capped by 30 minutes of pyrotechnics choreographed to music.

Great Lakes has the Navy's only boot camp and technical training schools for surface warfare. More than 20,000 military and civilian personnel work, train and live aboard the installation.

Fourth of July celebrations were primarily internal and for military families and civilian employees, with some invited guests, for several decades after the base opened July 1, 1911.

Prue said corporate donations and money from other private sources -- not federal tax dollars -- have covered festival expenses other than security and protection. Military officials said the costs to ensure base safety couldn't be absorbed during last year's financial uncertainty.

Twitter: @DHBobSusnjara

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