Organizers say there were a lot of improvements at this year's Northwest Fourth Fest, but perhaps the most impressive were the claps and cheers heard when the 32-minute fireworks show concluded.
"Last year did not get a round of applause at the end," said Sears Centre Arena General Manager Ben Gibbs, referring to the 2012 show cut short after technical difficulties. "It was nice to see (the crowd) appreciated it."
Although figures were not immediately available, organizers are confident that revenues from the five-day festival in Hoffman Estates increased substantially from last year.
Hoffman Estates village officials say they budgeted a $122,330 loss for the event, but it appears losses were less substantial. Last year, the festival had a net loss of about $128,000.
This was the second year of the Northwest Fourth Fest, which is hosted by Hoffman Estates, Elgin, Hanover Park and Hanover Township at the Sears Centre Arena.
Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain said the fireworks were some of the best he had ever seen. Pairing them with the Elgin Symphony Orchestra also drew a large crowd, including people who remember the orchestra playing at Poplar Creek in Hoffman Estates many years ago.
"That's a memory that a lot of people talked about," he said, adding that he hopes to create a memory that sticks with people for another 25 years.
Elgin contributed $15,000 to the fireworks, while Hanover Park put in $10,000 and Hanover Township contributed $10,000. Hoffman Estates covered the rest of the $39,000 show. All four communities also had police, fire and public works personnel helping with safety, traffic control, festival preparations and clean up.
Hanover Park Mayor Rodney Craig said he saw "wonderful improvements" at the festival, especially with parking. Craig said it took him about 10 minutes to get out of the parking lot after the fireworks show, which he considers "exceptional" compared to the time he spent getting out last year.
Gibbs said an estimated 35,000 to 40,000 people attended on July 4 alone. Last year, traffic was an issue due to roads that were buckling from the heat.
"We had no issues bringing people on-site, or bringing them off-site (this year)," he said.
Gibbs estimated that about 30 percent of visitors stayed after the July 4 fireworks, most likely remaining for a concert scheduled afterward. There were no musical acts after last year's fireworks.
"We were able to keep people on site longer by extending the entertainment," he said. "I think that led to people spending more money on food and beverage and utilizing the rides more."
While there is no way to measure how many people came from each town, Craig said he noticed a many cars heading south on Route 59 and east on Irving Park Road, toward Hanover Park, after the fireworks.
"I saw that as a big positive. I feel that we had a nice involvement," he said.
Hanover Township Supervisor Brian McGuire agreed, noting that while it's hard to tell how many township residents visited the festival, it was clear many were in attendance at some point over the weekend.
Sponsorships were on the rise the rise this year, and Gibbs hopes that will continue to grow.Gibbs said the arena will have to decide whether it is worth doing a ticketed musical act again next year, based off attendance numbers for July 5 performance by country duo Thompson Square.
"It was a success in the sense that logistically it all went well. We were just hoping the crowd would be bigger," he said, declining to disclose the number of tickets sold for the act.
Kaptain said an exploratory committee will look into whether participating in the festival again is feasible for Elgin, or if there's space or money available to do an event in the city. He said options will be discussed this fall and he hopes to have a decision by the beginning of 2014.
McGuire said he doesn't see any reason why the township wouldn't participate next year.
"We look at it every year and review whether or not to continue participation," he said. "There's no indication that we would pull out."
Craig said the Hanover Park officials also plan to review the village's participation.
"I think, economically, it's a smart thing to do," he said. "I'm very pleased that Hoffman Estates is willing to share that facility with its neighbors."