When it comes to the spectacle of Fourth of July fireworks shows, there is no shortage of patriotic pizazz in the suburbs.
Screaming, fiery missiles set the night sky aglow above suburbs big and small, and dazzle onlookers with their beauty and ferocity. It is a scene that will play out almost everywhere Friday.
Few things inspire as much hometown pride as these climaxes to our collective Independence Day celebration. They are ubiquitous and plentiful. And while it's no easy choice deciding where to watch this bombastic ode to the creation of the nation, here is our list of shows in the suburbs that will provide an especially big bang (in no particular order).
1. Arlington Heights
What makes these fireworks so attractive is the venue: Arlington International racetrack, which means there's plenty to do, plenty of room to stretch out and great fireworks besides. "Fireworks, Racing and Music" is the title and says it all: The first race is at 3:15 p.m.; the first 5,000 guests get a free Fourth of July "accessory;" Popsicles go to the first 1,000 kids. There's live music from the band How Far To Austin, kids activities, lots of food and beverage options and Mike Ditka himself to kick off the fireworks at dusk. Gates open at 1 p.m.
Dusk, Friday; $16 ($2 children). Info: arlingtonpark.com
After a seven-year hiatus, Elgin is bringing back the boom. The city is co-sponsoring a fireworks show and concert with Grand Victoria Casino. The city is anticipating between 8,000 and 10,000 people will attend the event at Festival Park, 132 S. Grove Ave., in downtown Elgin. The park is between Prairie and Lake streets along the Fox River. A 5 p.m. concert featuring former Styx frontman Dennis DeYoung and Creedence Clearwater Revisited is also slated. City officials noted free parking is available at the casino or at city-owned parking decks.
9 p.m. Friday; $5 lawn admission. Info: cityofelgin.org/index.aspx?NID=1740
3. Great Lakes Naval Station
One fireworks show in Lake County screams "USA!" perhaps even louder than the fans at the World Cup. Two 30-minute fireworks productions, choreographed to music, at the Navy's only training station to celebrate Independence Day -- all for free. The two-day Great Lakes Naval Station Fourth of July celebration returns in a big way for 2014 to the base at Sheridan Road and Route 137 near North Chicago.
10:30 p.m. today and 9:30 p.m. Friday; free. Info: visitlakecounty.org/event_details.cfm?EventID=8974
4. Hoffman Estates
Now in its third year, Northwest Fourth Fest is still smarting from criticism it got two years ago over its fireworks show, and so for 2014 the fest is promising "the area's largest fireworks display," with a "state-of-the-art computerized launch system." We believe them. The fest is held July 3-6 outside the Sears Centre Arena along I-90 in Hoffman Estates, sponsored by the village, the park district and Hanover Township. And while you are waiting for the show, enjoy the more than 40 carnival rides as well as food offerings from locally owned restaurants and live music. More than 9,000 free parking spaces available.
Dusk, Friday; Free. Info: northwestfourthfest.com
The small town of Itasca thinks big when it comes to its annual Independence Day celebration. Itasca has one of the largest fireworks shows in the Chicago area. Friday's event is expected to draw between 25,000 and 35,000 spectators to the Hamilton Lakes Business Park, at the intersection of Thorndale Avenue and I-355. Village President Jeff Pruyn said the town has spent about $60,000 from hotel taxes to buy this year's fireworks. He said Hamilton Lakes is a beautiful setting for the large crowd to gather and enjoy the show. Live music featuring Maggie Speaks starts at 7:15 p.m. The fireworks display is scheduled to begin between 9:45 and 10 p.m. Vendors will be selling food and beverages.
9:45 p.m. Friday; Free admission (Parking $20). Info: itasca.com/index.aspx?nid=1272
6. St. Charles
St. Charles holds its Fourth of July fireworks in one of the most picturesque settings you'll find for such an event. Pottawatomie Park is the best viewing location for the fireworks show, especially due to its riverside scenery. However, the $30,000 event hosted by the city's park district can be seen from downtown, surrounding neighborhoods and even the parking lot of St. Charles North High School. People also take to boats, canoes and kayaks along the river and gather on bridges south of the park to watch the fireworks reflect off the water. Fireworks shoot off at dusk, but officials recommend arriving early because parking is limited and the best spots to watch fill up fast. The park is at 8 North Ave. near downtown, at 2nd Avenue.
Dusk Friday; free. Info: stcparks.org